PBBM’s Brunei, Singapore visits deepen ties with ASEAN neighbors

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President Ferdinand R. Marcos’ Jr.’s back-to-back visits to Brunei Darussalam and Singapore have produced beneficial outcomes.

As it is the 40th year of Philippines-Brunei diplomatic relations, it was an opportune time for the President to engage His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in a comprehensive dialogue covering defense and security, maritime cooperation, economic cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges.

Signed during the visit were three Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) on Tourism Cooperation; on the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW); and on Maritime Cooperation.

Given the two countries’ proximity, ensuring a continuous stream of tourists should be promoted more vigorously. The agreement on STCW ensures that Filipino Seafarers who were issued Philippine national certificates are now recognized in Brunei. The joint undertaking of maritime activities bodes well for enhancing tourism and commerce, while securing the sea lanes. The signing of a Letter of Intent on Agricultural Cooperation will serve as a precursor for further cooperation in ensuring food security.

On regional affairs, President Marcos also affirmed support for Brunei to establish the ASEAN Center for Climate Change. Senior Filipino government officials and private sector leaders engaged in productive dialogue with some 200 Bruneian counterparts in the Philippine Business Forum in which they beamed the spotlight on agribusiness, renewable energy, halal development, and opportunities in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), as well as in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

President Marcos highlighted the special attention devoted to cooperation with Brunei’s increasing tempo of renewable energy exploration and utilization. He pointed out that the Philippines is seeking to increasing use of renewable energy on top of the current oil and gas energy mix.

In his meeting with the Filipino community, President Marcos assured them that “we will continue to work to realize our dream of being a high-income economy by 2040.” He assured them “of my administration’s tireless endeavors and projects in ensuring their safety and well-being.”

There are more than 20,000 Filipinos living and working in Brunei Darussalam, mostly employed in schools, hospitals, hotels and restaurants. According to a recently published book, “the significant presence of the Filipino community has resulted in the introduction of the Tagalog language program at Brunei’s flagship university—Universiti Brunei Darussalam.”
In Singapore, he met with President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and newly appointed Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, and invited both of them to visit the Philippines, as 2024 marks 55 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The main purpose of his Singapore visit was to deliver the keynote address at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue participated in by delegates from 48 countries. He emphasized to them: “The lines (we) draw on our waters are derived not from imagination, but from international law. Unlike others, we submitted our assertions to rigorous legal scrutiny by the world’s leading jurists.”

President Marcos also took the opportunity to meet with representatives from Lithuania and some US Congress members, taking “every opportunity and continue to build bridges that will ensure a long lasting peace and stability in our region.”