State visit ends on a high note
By M K Anwar in Manila

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have reaffirmed their desire to further deepen and expand their relations, with a view to helping each other not only in their respective national development efforts, but also in addressing regional and global challenges.

This was stated in the joint statement released by both countries following the state visit by His Majesty to the Philippines which ended yesterday.

The state visit with the theme, "Silver Anniversary of Friendship with a Friend of Peace", affirmed the long-standing relations reflect the close historical, political, economic, cultural and kinship ties that will be further strengthened and carried on in the next 25 years and beyond.

Both leaders expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting which will further strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to enhance the existing friendship and cooperation between the Republic of the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam based on mutual respect, understanding, beneficial and effective cooperation, in line with the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the principles of justice and international law.

President Arroyo expressed appreciation for Brunei Darussalam's unwavering commitment to and support in achieving lasting peace and development in Mindanao, notably through the sustained participation of Brunei Darussalam in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in southern Philippines and deployment of additional peace monitors.

President Arroyo also thanked His Majesty for the assistance given to the Philippines for the construction of the Grand Mosque project which will serve as a centrepiece of the Islamic and Civic Center in Cotabato City, and the scholarship programme for Filipino Madrasah teachers and school administrators at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).

His Majesty, meanwhile, assured the Philippines that Brunei Darussalam would continue its active involvement and support for these peace initiatives in Southern Philippines.

In enhancing trade and investments relations between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam, both countries were pleased that private sector involvement in the enhancement of economic cooperation is increasing.

They welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Crestar Communications, Inc of the Philippines and the Brunei Economic Development Board and that this could further enhance cooperation in the field of information and communications technology and serve as a means to create greater opportunities for people-to-people contacts that would lead to a stronger bond between the two countries.

Both Leaders were also delighted to learn that Pacific Pearl Airways will have its inaugural chartered flight on April 3, 2009, covering the Davao-Brunei-Davao route.

Acknowledging Brunei Darussalam's interest in the experience and expertise of the Philippines in rice production, the Philippines Agriculture Secretary will be leading a delegation to Brunei Darussalam to discuss with his counterpart possible areas of mutual cooperation in agriculture.

President Arroyo raised the importance of Brunei's support to the efforts being made by ASEAN to the Chiang Mai Initiative. In view of Brunei's highly accepted Halal brand, President Arroyo broached to His Majesty the possibility of considering Mindanao as a source of halal products.

His Majesty who arrived in the Philippines on Thursday ended the state visit yesterday. - Borneo Bulletin (1st Feb 2009)