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Mahathir sees Bangsamoro region boosting PH-Malaysia economic ties

Pia Ranada
Mahathir sees Bangsamoro region boosting PH-Malaysia economic ties
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad tells Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that he expects the new Bangsamoro region to spur growth and development

MANILA, Philippines – The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) took a front seat in the discussions between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during the latter’s visit to Manila.

Mahathir expressed hope for the success of the region during both the expanded bilateral meeting and the joint press statement with Duterte on Thursday, March 7, in Malacañang.

At the meeting, the Malaysian leader congratulated the Philippine government for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law last January 25, which created the BARMM.

“We are very gratified to be congratulating you on the peace that has been achieved in the southern Philippines,” said Mahathir as he faced Duterte and his Cabinet officials in the Aguinaldo State Dining Room.

Later on, when he and Duterte faced the press, he again mentioned the BARMM.

“I believe with the establishment of BARMM we will have to boost economic ties between both countries. I therefore assure Mr President of Malaysia’s desire to continue to be of help in the development of Mindanao,” said Mahathir.

The Bangsamoro region means something to Malaysia as the country had played a role in the peace talks which led to the region’s creation.

Malaysia, for many years, played third-party facilitator between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Muslim group that will now lead the Bangsamoro region.

Mahathir congratulated Duterte for his appointment of members into the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the entity that will govern the BARMM until 2022.

‘Brother for peace’

Duterte, for his part, thanked Mahathir for Malaysia’s “unrelenting support” for Mindanao’s progress and development.

“Mr Prime Minister, your visit reaffirms the friendship between our two peoples and nations, and demonstrates your strong resolve as our partner for progress and a brother for peace,” said the Philippine leader.

The two affirmed their country’s commitment to their “trilateral agreement” with Indonesia to protect their shared waters from sea piracy and terrorism.

Under this deal, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia committed to undertake unilateral maritime and air patrols to guard against bandit groups like the local Abu Sayyaf Group.

Economic ties

Mahathir also sees the need to boost economic investments and ties for the benefit of the Philippines, Malaysia’s 4th largest trading partner in the Southeast Asian region, and 15th largest trading partner globally.

“The trade between the two countries [is] increasing but they are largely in favor of Malaysia. I believe there is still room for improvement and from my meeting with Mr President, we would encourage private sectors from both countries to explore opportunities of collaboration and venture into new cooperation and investments,” he said.

Mahathir, however, warned the Philippines against the influx of foreigners, saying it should “rethink” the impact of such an influx. (READ: Duterte does not favor deporting illegal Chinese workers)

“Foreign direct investment should not involve bringing huge numbers of foreigners to live in the country because that might disturb the political equations in the country,” Mahathir told ABS-CBN in an interview.

For his part, Duterte thanked Malaysian companies for their “active role” in the development of Clark Green City in Pampanga, which the administration wants to turn into a new commercial hub. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at