BILATERAL MEET.  President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and His Majesty Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei Darussalam hold a bilateral meeting Saturday (Nov. 12, 2022) during the sidelines of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Marcos cited Brunei's role in keeping peace in Mindanao. (Malacanang Photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. recognized Saturday the crucial role played by the Brunei Sultanate in the Mindanao peace process.

During his bilateral meeting with Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah on the sidelines of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Marcos assured that efforts to ensure long-lasting peace in Mindanao are proceeding despite the roadblocks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m happy to be able to inform, Your Majesty, that the peace process is proceeding along. Although we have extended the Transition Authority for another three years simply because they were unable to do their job during the pandemic,” Marcos said.

“This process – the negotiations between the Bangsamoro and our Muslim brothers and sisters began in 1976 -- I believe, is the fruition of that. And we are very happy," he added.

Brunei is part of the International Monitoring Team and the independent decommissioning body in the peace process in the southern Philippines.

Bolkiah, meanwhile, pledged his country’s continued support to the efforts of the Philippines in ensuring peace and stability.

“We will continue to support your government’s efforts in ensuring peace and stability through various initiatives in the southern Philippines including our participation in the unification and modification assistance,” the sultan said.

Marcos also informed the sultan about the scheduled 2025 parliamentary election in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

He said he looked forward to having a functioning autonomous government in the south.

Bolkiah likewise commended Marcos for his tireless effort for the attainment of peace and prosperity in the BARMM.

In October 2021, then-President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 11593 postponing the first regular BARMM elections from 2022 to 2025.

This means the region will be led by appointed, not elected, officials for another three years.

RA 11593 extends the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) but gave Marcos the chance to name new members for the additional three years it will be in power.

Marcos led the oath-taking of Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim and other interim BTA members in August.

PH-Brunei’s fraternal bond

In the same meeting, Marcos said he was proud to witness how the bond between the Philippines and Brunei was shaped in part by his father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

“From the early days when my father came to visit you and I was able to accompany him. I remember I just happened to be in Manila for a vacation from studying in the UK. And my father said, ‘You have to come.’ And I was lucky enough to be able to accompany him and enjoy the hospitality of Your Majesty," he said.

Bolkiah, meanwhile, recalled hosting the late President in Brunei during the celebration of the country’s first National Day in February 1984.

It was also the same year the Philippines and Brunei established diplomatic relations.

“Since then, our relations have continued to grow stronger. There’s an active exchange between us at all levels. There is a large Filipino community in Brunei. They are an important part of our growth and invaluable contribution to our socioeconomic development,” Bolkiah said.

The sultan also expressed hope that more Filipinos come to Brunei for a visit with the availability of more direct flights between the two countries. (PNA)