MANILA, Philippines–Making his first state visit to the Philippines under the Aquino administration, the Sultan of Brunei will be in Manila next week in a visit seen to boost long-standing ties between the two countries.
Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah will be in the country on Apr. 15 to 16 to meet with President Aquino, reciprocating the latter’s state visit to Bandar Seri Begawan in June 2011, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late Monday.
“During the state visit, the President and the Sultan will discuss, among others, Brunei’s Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (Asean) as well as the strengthening of Philippines-Brunei bilateral relations,” said the DFA.
Bolkiah’s visit to the Philippines is set just weeks before Brunei’s hosting of the 10-member Asean Summit meetings in its capital.
Brunei is a close Philippine partner, actively involved in the Mindanao peace process through membership in the International Monitoring Team. Bolkiah is also known to have supported development projects for Mindanao communities.
The DFA did not say whether the two leaders would have the opportunity to discuss common interests in the West Philippine Sea, where both the Philippines and Brunei have partial claims to potentially resource-rich territories.
Aquino had brought up the maritime dispute issue with Bolkiah during his two-day state visit in Brunei nearly two years ago. During the visit, Aquino also met with Brunei officials, local businessmen and members of the 21,000-strong Filipino community there.
Just last week, Philippine and Brunei officials met in Bandar Seri Begawan for the 2nd Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC).
During the meeting, officials discussed potential areas for further cooperation, including defense, agriculture, energy, trade and investments, business process outsourcing, education, labor, and health, said the DFA. The two sides also looked at the possibility of employing Filipino medical professionals in Brunei.
Bolkiah’s last visit to the Philippines was in 2009.