MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and Malaysia agreed yesterday to bolster their political and security cooperation even as they emphasized the importance of maintaining peace in the South China Sea.
President Marcos and Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim discussed developments in the South China Sea during their bilateral meeting at Malacañang last night.
Marcos said the two countries, as immediate neighbors, recognize the importance of maintaining peace and security in the region.
“As such, we agreed to continue our cooperation on political and security matters, rekindling the Joint Commission Meetings and joint initiatives to combat transnational crime and terrorism,” Marcos said at a joint press conference at the President’s Hall in Malacañang.
Anwar, for his part, said he shared Marcos’ position to take up the matter at a multilateral level among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“We did discuss the South China Sea issue and I shared President Marcos Jr.’s concern that due to the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, we should try and engage and take the position at a multilateral level between ASEAN so that we have a comprehensive approach and achieve an amicable resolution to this outstanding problem,” he said.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, which is believed to hold large reserves of oil and natural gas.
The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea.
ASEAN failed anew to put up a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea with Beijing during its summit in Cambodia in November last year.
ASEAN and China have been negotiating for a binding COC in the past few years to manage tensions amid competing claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.
Meanwhile, the two countries also agreed to boost trade and investment exchanges.
The two leaders agreed to “reinvigorate trade and investment exchanges, with a special focus on the halal industry, agriculture and food security and the digital economy.”
”Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim and I had a cordial and productive discussion on Philippines-Malaysia bilateral cooperation, reaffirming our two countries’ desire to revitalize relations as we traverse past the pandemic then through the years towards a new normal,” Marcos said.
Marcos said the two countries’ shared historic roots are deep, and the Philippines and Malaysia’s cultures enjoy natural affinity.
“As such, we spoke of further deepening our people-to-people ties through continued cultural exchanges and tourism,” Marcos said, recognizing the role of the Filipino diaspora in Malaysia and their contribution to both economies.
The two leaders also committed to continue supporting and enhancing cooperation with the
Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), including hosting the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines Facilitation Center.
The Philippines and Malaysia are among the founding members of the ASEAN and the BIMP-EAGA.
“We have thus resolved to support development and peace-building initiatives within this group, including the importance of achieving a resolution to the situation in Myanmar,” the President said. – Pia Lee-Brago, Janvic Mateo, Cecille Suerte Felipe