MANILA -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday welcomed Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in MalacaAang to reaffirm bilateral relations and boost cooperation in health, education, and anti-terrorism, among others.
After Duterte and Mahathir met at the Palace Grounds at around 3 p.m., the latter proceeded to sign the guest book. The two leaders later met in an expanded bilateral meeting.
In his welcome statement, Duterte said he was able to share with Mahathir the strides achieved by the Philippine government towards securing peace in Mindanao through the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) which creates a new Bangsamoro entity.
The road leading to the historic transition to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region was paved in large part by the support of our international partners. Malaysia occupies a prominent role in this roster of friends, Duterte said.
Duterte expressed gratitude to Mahathir for Malaysia's support for the administration's Build, Build, Build infrastructure program noting it played a role in the development of Clark Green City.
He also thanked the Prime Minister for the support showed by Malaysia in developing Mindanao, which he described as key for the Philippines and the BIMP-EAGA sub-region.
BIMP-EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
I have personally seen significant headways that spurred and sustained economic communities in the BIMP-EAGA sub-region through which active socio-cultural and economic interchange across borders and enhanced cooperation between customs, immigration, quarantine and security matters, Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Duterte said that their bilateral meeting focused on matters of mutual concern, covering our people-to-people ties, including the promotion of reciprocal tourism, cooperation in health and education, and the protection and promotion of the welfare of their respective nationals.
Duterte said both countries also reaffirmed commitment to collaborate in regional and multilateral platforms, particularly within ASEAN to advance the rule of law in Southeast Asia.
Freedom of navigation and overflight over the South China Sea, as well as the peaceful settlement of disputes were also discussed, Duterte said.
Mahathir, for his part, congratulated Duterte for the ratification of the BOL and hoped for a smooth transition process into the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
I congratulated President Duterte on the success of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the appointment of members into the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. I look forward to the smooth transition of the ARMM through the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, Mahathir said.
Mahathir said that given the developments concerning the BOL, the Malaysian government, a facilitator in the peace process, will continue to be of help in the development of Mindanao.
Given the vast economic potential of this area, I believe with the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao or BARMM, we have to boost economic ties between both countries, he added.
Mahathir recognized improving economic ties between both countries, and encouraged private sectors from both countries to venture in new cooperation and investments.
The Prime Minister also emphasized his commitment to strengthen the relationship between Malaysia and the Philippines as well as promote the cause of ASEAN.
Prior to meeting Duterte, Mahatira lead the wreath-laying ceremony in Rizal Park, Manila.
The 93-year-old Malaysian leader arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday night.
Mahathir's two-day state visit reciprocates Duterte's visit to Malaysia in July 2018.
This is Mahathir's first visit to the Philippines since he assumed his position as Malaysia's seventh Prime Minister in 2018. He also made bilateral official visits in 1987 and 1994 during his previous term as Prime Minister.
Source: Philippines News Agency