World Bulletin / News Desk
Malaysia and the Philippines have announced they stand shoulder to shoulder on matters of peace and security, with both countries recognizing Thursday the need to ensure stability within and outside their borders.
In a statement issued following a bilateral meeting with visiting Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak underlined that the Philippines was not only Malaysia's neighbor but also a friend.
"The Philippines is not only Malaysia’s neighbor, but also our friend, and I have been delighted by the strengthening of ties between our countries in recent years. While the relationship, like any other, has faced strains at times, our common interests far outweigh any points of disagreement," said Najib,
Razak underlined that the Philippines is Malaysia’s fifth largest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and its tenth largest globally.
"We are delighted to host hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who make a meaningful and much valued contribution to our society," he said.
"On the international stage too, we share similar beliefs, including that of an Asian Century -- where countries such as ours will play an increasing role in the global economy."
Razak stressed that both countries stand shoulder to shoulder on matters of peace and security, with both countries recognizing the need to ensure stability within and outside borders.
The busy waterways between the southern Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have become human fishing grounds for Philippines-based Daesh-linked groups such as the Abu Sayyaf -- renowned for beheading victims.
Police and military reports released in the Philippines late last month stated that the Abu Sayyaf had shifted its priorities from abducting foreigners and businesspeople on the mainland to foreign-flagged tugboats and their crews -- many of them Malaysian and Indonesian nationals -- in local shipping lanes.
In his statement, Razak announced the signing of an Exchange of Notes between the two countries' governments to establish a Framework for Cooperation in tackling the issue of kidnap-for-ransom and other security issues along the sea borders.
He added that discussion had also taken place on progress made since the launch of the Implementing Phase of the Mindanao Peace Agreements between the Philippines' government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Since 2001, Kuala Lumpur has been hosting negotiations between the two to end a conflict that has killed 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in the resource-rich areas of the south.
"I welcome President Duterte’s signing of the executive order enabling the reconstitution of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission [BTC]," said Najib, underling that this would in turn lead to the drafting of an enabling law for the eventual formation of a Bangsamoro Government.
The BTC is tasked with crafting a new Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is aimed at sealing a 2014 peace deal signed by the MILF and the government and paving the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The MILF agreement is still to be completed, however, having been shelved for the 2016 election. He said that Duterte had acknowledged the strong support Malaysia had extended to the peace process and he was confident that with such a clear roadmap, remaining long-standing issues can be resolved.
"In Malaysia, President Duterte will find a steadfast partner in his quest to achieve peace in the southern Philippines," stressed Razak.
"We look forward to working closely with him and the Filipino people to strengthen even further the close ties that bind our two countries."
Since the 1960s, Malaysia has governed the resource-rich frontier Sabah region in northern Borneo as its second-largest federal state.
Heirs of the Sultan of Sulu -- an island group off the southern Philippines -- claim Sabah has belonged to their sultanate for centuries and was only leased to Malaysia, which pays a token amount to the Sultanate each year for the "rental" of the state -- an arrangement that stretches back to British colonial times.
Malaysian officials, however, contend the payments are part of an arrangement under which the sultanate has ceded the 74,000-square kilometer (28,000 square mile) territory to their country.
Duterte -- who voiced support for the Sabah claim during his presidential election campaign -- is on the second day of a two-day official visit to Malaysia.
aaLast Mod: 10 Kasım 2016, 19:26