Royal visit fortifies close ties
By M K Anwar in Manila

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam last night extolled the great relations between Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines and that Brunei is always ready to offer whatever help as a close neighbour and regional partner.

His Majesty delivered the titah at a State Banquet hosted by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at Malacanang Palace.

Accompanying His Majesty were Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hjh Saleha and Her Royal Highness Pengiran Isteri Azrinaz Mazhar.

In the titah His Majesty acknowledged the major contribution given by the Philippines to regional development.

Highlighting more than 20,000 Filipino workers in Brunei currently, His Majesty noted that they are virtually every walk of life, industrial, commercial, domestic and professional and that they bring with them the spirit of goodwill and friendship that have been mentioned in the vision of regional community.

His Majesty thanked the families of these people in the Philippines for the contributions to Brunei and also to the vision of a true community that is the inspiration behind the Asean Charter

Earlier His Majesty was conferred the Order of the Lakandula with the rank of Grand Collar Supremo in recognition of the constructive role played by His Majesty in strengthening bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries especially with regard to the development of Mindanao.

Touching more on the Asean Charter which President Arroyo mentioned two years ago in Cebu during the 12th Asean Summit, His Majesty stated that this vision has clearly expressed but further reminded that there may be challenges that they must face.

These challenges, explained His Majesty may not come from within the region but from every point of the compass in the globalised world. For this reason, His Majesty remarked that the Brunei government is also replacing community life.

This includes the thorough elimination of poverty, the provision of education, health, employment and safety which all secure a better future.

In this respect, His Majesty stated that like the people of the Philippines, Brunei is committed to work closely with its neighbours in the region in peace and respect of each other. This, said His Majesty is a practical application of goodwill and friendship.

Meanwhile in a speech by the Philippine President, she also highlighted the strengthening relations that have grown for the past 25 years between the two countries.

One significant contribution mentioned by President Arroyo is the grand mosque donated by His Majesty in Cotabatu Mindanao which is expected to be completed this year. Furthermore, President Arroyo also touched on the proposals by His Majesty in cooperating in the agricultural field especially for rice production.

Also attending the state banquet was His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Malik, Her Royal Highness Princess Hjh Rashidah and HRH Princess Hjh Masna.

His Majesty arrived in the Philippines on Thursday for a three-day State visit. - Borneo Bulletin (31st Jan 2009)