By ZAINAL ALAM KADIR / Pic By BERNAMA
MANILA • Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has given assurance to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that Malaysia would play an active role in the development of Mindanao, following the successful creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
In a joint statement by the two leaders after a bilatereal meeting at the Malacanang Palace here yesterday, Dr Mahathir said the establishment of BARMM would boost economic ties between both countries.
“I, therefore, assure (Mr) president, of Malaysia’s desire to continue to be of help in the development of Mindanao,” Dr Mahathir said.
He added that the Bangsamoro region is significant to Malaysia as it is a party that had played a role in the peace talks which led to the region’s creation from the development of Mindanao.
Apart from the development of southern Philippines, both leaders also agreed to explore other economic sectors that could benefit both countries, as well as other issues that are of mutual interest for the nations and the region.
“The president and I had a productive discussion this afternoon. We discussed a wide range of issues on bilateral relations between Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as regional and international issues of mutual concern. We have very strong and close ties between both countries at every level,” Dr Mahathir said yesterday.
The PM, who is on a three-day working visit to Manila since Wednesday, said while trade between the two countries is encouraging, it is more in favour of Malaysia.
As such, Dr Mahathir called on the private sector from both countries to forge cooperation and explore new areas of investment and trade.
He said the areas that would be of interest for co-development are health, tourism and education.
The other areas of interest that were discussed by both leaders were security issue, which includes on the borders of the two countries and Indonesia.
“We resolve to ramp up operations to address security issues, particularly terrorism, piracy and trans-national crimes, including
the fight against illegal drug trade,” said Duterte.
He added that the Philippines will also improve economic cooperation between the countries, which according to him needs further expansion for mutual interest, as well as for the Asean region.
Duterte said both countries need to intensify a two-way trade and investment for the sake of prosperity and progress.
“The Philippines’ destiny is in Asean and Asia. Malaysia, (is) the Philippines’ partner for progress and brother for peace, will continue to play an important role as we generate and continue to progress our shared aspirations for greater peace, progress, prosperity and stability in the Asean region,” Duterte said.
Earlier, at a Malaysia-Philippines Business Forum held in Makati City, Dr Mahathir said Asean countries should revisit and study great ideas and concepts, as well as find a good model that could lead to the creation of a greater economic caucus.
He said the region, which now has a population of over 600 million, should also begin to exploit the numbers for mutual economic interest.
“Today, we are 10 countries and we have a population of 600 million people. A big population is good if the population is productive,” he said.
“Despite 600 million people, we are still looking at our countries as a different market each,” he said, adding that Asean should emulate China’s success story, a nation that is successfuly transformed in less than 40 years to become the second-biggest economy in the world, boosted by its population.