Brunei Sultan Bolkiah arrives for Asean summit, state visit
Brunei Darussalam’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah on Wednesday arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Wednesday for his state visit and to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Manila.
Bolkiah arrived at the Balagbag Ramp, Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7 p.m.
He was welcomed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Meynardo Montealegre, Pasay city Rep. Emi Calixto-Rubiano, and Pasay city mayor Tony Calixto.
Bolkiah is expected to hold bilateral meetings with President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday.
He will also lead the wreath laying on Thursday at the Rizal Park, a tradition during state visits.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte and Bolkiah are expected “to exchange views on pressing bilateral and regional issues of concern, including matters with respect to peace and security, trade and investments, and Asean.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo is also expected to arrive for a state visit during the Asean summit that would run from Wednesday to Saturday. The Philippines is host as the Asean chair this year.
President Rodrigo Duterte visited Indonesia in Sept. 2016 and Brunei a month later as part of his introductory visit to Asean countries.
Bolkiah is one the world’s remaining absolute monarchs. He is also one of the longest-reigning sultans, having been crowned in 1967 after the voluntary abdication of his father. He is the 29th of his line.
He is also one of the world’s wealthiest with a net worth of $20 billion in 2011 in a country where standard of living is high, according to Forbes magazine which called him one of the world’s wealthiest royals.
Bolkiah also reportedly owns 600 Rolls-Royces, and his residence is touted as the world’s largest palace costing over $350 million, according to Time magazine.
Although criticism is generally played down in Brunei, Bolkiah earned international outcry over his adoption of tough criminal punishment under the Shariah penal code. Penalties include amputation due to theft, stoning due to adultery and flogging due to homosexual acts.
Bolkiah last flew into the country for a state visit in April 2013. Bolkiah and then president Benigno Aquino III then vowed for closer cooperation to find a solution to the maritime and territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), in a bid to resolve the disputes through a code of conduct. Brunei also claims parts of the South China Sea.
The Philippines is host of the 30th Asean Summit which would run from April 26 to 29 in Manila. President Duterte is this year’s Asean chair who would host the first of two annual meetings of Asean leaders on Saturday.
The Asean Summit proper will begin on Saturday, with the opening ceremonies and a signing ceremony on the Asean Declaration on the Role of the Civil Service as a Catalyst for Achieving the Asean Community Vision 2025.
President Duterte will chair the 30th Asean Summit Plenary and Retreat as well as the BIMP-EAGA Summit on April 29. He will host a Gala Dinner for the Leaders and delegates on that day.
Under the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World,” the Asean leaders will discuss progress in the implementation of the Asean Vision 2025, as well as Asean’s external relations and Asean’s future direction.
The Asean leaders have been urged to talk about the growing human rights crisis in the region, especially in light of the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs.
The Asean leaders are also expected to tackle the crafting of a Code of Conduct to govern the actions of Asean member states and China in the South China Sea, where the countries have overlapping maritime claims.
It is not yet clear if Duterte, who cozied up its relations with China, would raise the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling favoring the Philippines’ maritime claims over the West Philippine Sea and invalidating China’s nine-dash line claiming most of the disputed waters.
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