Duterte, Bolkiah want peaceful resolution of South China Sea row

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei agree on the settlement of the South China Sea dispute through peaceful negotiations.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, Duterte said Brunei and the Philippines have both agreed that the maritime dispute should be diplomatically addressed.

"As we seek peace, stability and security in the vital waters of South China Sea, we must remember that we have duties as responsible members of the international community which we must abide," the President said.

"We will work together to ensure that the principled position for the peaceful resolution of disputes will be articulated fully," he added.

Both Brunei and the Philippines are both South China Sea claimants.

Duterte said such collective interest between the two countries must be upheld in the implementation of the declaration of the code of conduct (DOC) and greater progress on the framework of code of conduct (COC) in South China Sea.

DOC mandates self-restraint and non-militarization within the contested waters.

The COC, on the other hand, is expected to be completed by Southeast Asian leaders and China by the middle of this year.

Meanwhile, the two leaders also aimed to beef up their collaboration to rid illegal drugs in their respective countries.

"We also look forward to our future collaboration in addressing issues on drugs. We believe that both sides will benefit from the exchanges of expertise and best practices in this area," Bolkiah said.

Duterte expressed gratitude over "successful" meeting with Bolkiah, noting that they both welcomed their governments' resolve to utilize joint commission for bilateral cooperation to chart future paths to review the progress they have made.

"We recognize the importance of the ties that bind our nations and our peoples. With shared aspirations of achieving greater peace, progress and prosperity for our peoples, we agreed to further step up collaborative efforts to achieve common goals," Duterte said.

Bolkiah, for his part, reaffirmed "close and long standing" partnership in various areas of cooperation, including economic cooperation.

"It is a pleasure to be back in the Philippines to further strengthen our close bilateral relations. Today, our meeting gave us an opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest," he said.

Bolkiah arrived in Manila on Wednesday evening for a state visit and participation at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

Bolkiah's visit sealed two bilateral agreements between Brunei and the Philippines: agreement on cultural cooperation; and memorandum of understanding on halal industry and halal export development and promotion.

The agreement on cultural cooperation seeks to promote cooperation in the field of culture and arts by enhancing institutional networking and people to people exchanges.

The memorandum of understanding, on the other hand, aims to foster cooperation in the field of halal industry and halal products development, reduce technical barriers to trade.

It would also facilitate bilateral relations between Brunei and the Philippines, particularly with respect to halal export development and promotion programs. (SunStar Philippines)

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