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Bolkiah glad to be back

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“It’s good to back in the Philippines.”

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei has expressed delight with his return visit to Manila to advance economic and security relations between the two close Asian allies.

Bolkiah extended his gratitude to Duterte for inviting him to visit Manila while lauding the country’s “rapid” economic development under his watch during their bilateral talks in Malacañang.

The sultan, who arrived in Manila last Wednesday night, was earlier given full military honors upon arrival in Malacañang. He is also in town to attend the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit this week.

“Thank you very much President Duterte for inviting me to make a State visit. It’s good to be back in the Philippines once again,” Bolkiah said at the start of the bilateral meeting with Duterte in Malacañang.

“Since my arrival, I have seen many economic activities which show the rapid development taking place in your country. I also admire the personal emphasis you have given in ensuring that such progress benefits and improves the livelihood of your people,” he added.

Bolkiah said he looks forward to his meeting with Duterte to further enhance “much valued bilateral relations between our two countries.” His last visit to Manila was in 2015 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The President said he was pleased and honored to welcome Bolkiah “back home to the Philippines.” He acknowledged that Bolkiah’s visit proves the “enduring ties and special friendship” between the two Asian nations.

The sultan is the first Southeast Asian leader to make a State visit to the country since Duterte assumed the presidency last year.

Duterte also said he was eager to build on the “significant strides” of the Philippine-Brunei partnership and bring such alliance to a whole new level. “I share the commitment to propel Brunei Darussalam-Philippine relations to even greater heights,” he said.

“We are eager to bring this partnership to a whole new level and we hold this meeting against the historic backdrop of ASEAN Summit. We are reminded of the milestone celebration of 50 years of the Association’s establishment,” he added.

Duterte also paid tribute to Bolkiah for his significant contributions to building a strong ASEAN. He likewise remembered that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Bolkiah’s ascension to the throne.

“This twin celebration highlights the transformation onward – on a forward-looking approach our nations are taking to take advantage of the challenges of the modern century,” he said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)