Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that he and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. have agreed to use a new level of approach on the West Philippine Sea issue through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in order to achieve an amicable resolution.
“We did discuss the South China 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,” Anwar said following his bilateral meeting with President Marcos in Malacañang.
Both the Philippines and Malaysia are claimants to the contested territories in the South China Sea.
Aside from discussing the South China Sea, Anwar said they also tackled the two countries’ defense and security ties, which he said remain strong and growing.
With the porous common borders they share, PM Anwar said strong collaboration is needed, which must be enhanced further.
The Malaysian leader also mentioned the plight of Filipinos facing legal woes in Malaysia, saying he asked the Philippine side during the meeting with the President to collaborate with Kuala Lumpur for their repatriation.
“I have asked the Philippines’ assistance and cooperation to expedite the commutation of nationals so that they can be repatriated to the Philippines in a timely manner. And I am pleased that — their willingness to facilitate this arrangement in a mutually agreed fashion,” the Malaysia PM said.
In the area of economic cooperation, Anwar said he reiterated Malaysia’s commitment to continue supporting and enhancing cooperation with the Brunei Darussalam- Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) including hosting the Brunei- Indonesia- Malaysia- Philippines Facilitation Center.
PM Anwar also assured President Marcos that the new administration in Malaysia will be more than happy to further enhance collaboration through multidimensional bilateral cooperation and vibrant people-to-people interaction.
“Our bilateral cooperation is multisectoral covering trade and investment, education, health, agriculture, health, tourism and culture,” Anwar said, adding the first generation of Malaysian professionals benefitted immensely from the work at Los Baños in Laguna and some of the known centers of learning in the Philippines.
Catherine R. Cueto