Boost to Brunei, Philippine ties
By M K Anwar in Manila

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam arrived in the Republic of the Philippines yesterday for a three-day state visit to further bolster relations with the country, which has entered its 25th year.

His Majesty, piloting the 747 aircraft, touched down at 3.35pm and taxied to the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing at Villamor Airbase for a planeside welcoming.

Accompanying His Majesty are Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha and Her Royal Highness Pengiran Isteri Azrinaz Mazhar.

His Majesty was welcomed at the airbase by Vice President of the Philippines, Noli De Castor.

Also in the welcoming party were Hermones Esperon, Cabinet-in-Attendance; Lt General Oscar Rabena, Commanding General of the Philippines Air Force; Malai Hajah Halimah Malai Hj Yussof, Brunei Ambassador to the Philippines; and Virginia Benavidez, Philippine Ambassador to Brunei.

His Majesty's entourage includes His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Malik, Her Royal Highness Princess Hjh Rashidah, HRH Princess Hjh Hafizah and HRH Princess Hjh Masna.

His Majesty's last state visit to the Philippines was in January 2003. The latest visit is on the invitation of the Philippines President Macapagal Arroyo.

Philippines Press Secretary Jesus Dureza on Tuesday said that the visit will see bilateral talks touching on employment, the BIMP-EAGA, connectivity between Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines, specifically Mindanao and economic cooperation.

He highlighted that the visit by His Majesty is a very important and significant event.

Preparations for the visit kicked off early this week as Philippines sees Brunei as one of its "strongest allies in Asean". Streets leading to the airbase have been lined with Brunei flags and pictures of His Majesty, as well as welcoming posters greeting the visiting head of state.

His Majesty's visit takes an added significance as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two nations after formal diplomatic ties between Brunei and the Philippines were established in 1984.

The Manila Bulletin in its editorial carried a welcoming message for His Majesty, Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness. It described His Majesty as one "who gives top priority to the promotion and strengthening of relations of Brunei Darussalam with the outside world".

"He visited many countries around the world and worked in collaborating with other world leaders in addressing regional and global concerns," the editorial said.

The visit will today continue with a packed schedule starting off with a welcoming ceremony at Malacanang Park. It will be followed by a courtesy call on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at Bahay Pengarap and an expanded bilateral meeting.

Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness will have separate engagements.

In the evening, Their Majesties and Her Royal Highness will be attending a State Dinner hosted by President Arroyo at Malacanang Palace. - Borneo Bulletin (30th Jan 2009)