Anwar wants to bolster defensive security ties between Malaysia, PH

At a glance

  • Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim delivers his statement during a joint press briefing with President Marcos at Malacañang Palace on March 1, 2023. (PPA POOL/Noel B. Pabalate)

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim stressed on Wednesday the need to further enhance the defensive security cooperation between Malaysia and the Philippines as he discussed with President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. the "common" and "porous" borders that the two countries share.

Anwar, who came to Manila for a two-day official visit until Thursday, also expressed concern about the growing tension in the South China Sea and called for a "comprehensive approach" and "amicable resolution" to this "outstanding problem."

Similar to the Philippines, part of the South China Sea is being asserted by Malaysia as its own.

"We did discuss 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 the multilateral level between ASEAN," Anwar said in a joint press conference at the Malacañang Palace on Wednesday.

Noting that Kuala Lumpur and Manila's defensive security ties "are strong and growing," Anwar wanted the collaboration "to be further enhanced."

So he and Marcos' respective administrations agreed to resume the 8th Joint Commission Meeting between the two countries, which was last held in 2011. The meeting aims to discuss the implementation of cooperative undertakings between Malaysia and the Philippines, including in the areas of politics and security.

First time in the Philippines after being sworn in as Malaysia's 10th prime minister, Anwar assured Marcos that his administration "will be more than happy to further enhance" his partnership with the country.

"I believe I concur what you have expressed: the need to not only reaffirm our commitment to work together but to enhance Malaysia-Philippine relations, guided by shared interests, multinational multi dimensional bilateral cooperation, and vibrant people-to-people interaction," he said.

Currently, Malaysia and the Philippines' cooperation is multi-sectoral, covering the areas of trade and investment, education, health, agriculture, health, tourism, and culture.

And with Anwar's maiden visit, the two leaders started brewing an enhanced partnership, particularly in the areas of halal industry and food security, digital economy and sports.

"Malaysia will also continue to offer assistance to the Bangsamoro people through various capacity-building programs including through our Malaysia Technical Cooperation Program," Anwar added, noting the development of the peace process in Mindanao.

As both members of ASEAN, Malaysia and the Philippines shared the same concern on the "contentious" and "unresolved Myanmar issue," according to Anwar.

"Now, the President, in his wisdom, has reiterated the need for the Five-Point Consensus," he said.

"But I would certainly suggest, with his experience of wisdom to explore new areas, how Myanmar junta can be persuaded to work and collaborate as a team within ASEAN, and resolve the outstanding issues, which cannot be considered as purely internal because it's affecting the security and welfare of the region," he added.