MANILA, March 7 (Bernama) — Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has assured Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of Malaysia’s commitment and desire to assist in the development of Mindanao.
Speaking at a joint press conference after a bilateral meeting with Duterte at Malacanang Palace here Thursday, Dr Mahathir said Mindanao has vast economic potential to be developed and the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) would help to boost economic ties between the two countries.
“I, therefore, assured the President of Malaysia’s desire to continue to assist in the development of Mindanao.
“I congratulated President Duterte on the success of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the appointment of members into the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
“I look forward to the smooth transition of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) to the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM),” said Dr Mahathir who is on a visit to the Philippines.
The BOL is a Philippine law providing for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, an autonomous political entity that replaces the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On economic matters, Dr Mahathir said he and Duterte also discussed trade between the two countries, which is increasing in Malaysia’s favour.
He said he believed there is still room for improvement and both of them would encourage the private sectors of the two countries to explore opportunities to collaborate and venture into new areas of cooperation and investment.
“One of the main priority areas where cooperation can be exerted is the enhancing of connectivity, which is vital to promoting economic development. Malaysia and the Philippines have been actively involved in the BIMP-EAGA and could use this platform to assist the Mindanao Development Authority,” he said.
BIMP-EAGA is the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area.
He said the Philippines is ranked as Malaysia’s 15th largest trading partner globally, and fourth largest trading partner among the ASEAN member states and, therefore, both he and Duterte strongly believed that trade and investment flow between the two countries could be further strengthened in the coming years.
“We had the opportunity to appraise ourselves with the progress in the present areas of tourism health and education, including by the investment of our private sectors.
“I look forward to the finalisation and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines on Cooperation in the Field of Health.
“I highlighted that Malaysia is a favourite healthcare destination for the Philippines. The number of patients from the Philippines seeking treatment in Malaysia has been increasing over the years,” Dr Mahathir said.
He said Duterte and he also emphasised the importance of education and discussed programmes for teachers and students in the Madrasah religious schools, especially in Mindanao.
On security matters, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia is committed to taking the necessary steps to address the serious issue of terrorism and violent extremism through the Trilateral Cooperation Agreement (TCA) that involves collaboration among Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
He said that under that framework, Malaysia and the Philippines, together with Indonesia, have agreed to undertake trilateral maritime and air patrols to tackle the growing security challenges.
“We also exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest, such as the South China Sea and cooperation within ASEAN,” he added.
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