MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino on Monday returned the favor to Malaysia for serving as the third-party facilitator of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) since 2001.
Mr. Aquino officially welcomed Prime Minister Najib Razak to the presidential palace ahead of the 1:30 p.m. signing of the Bangsamoro deal, where Najib was to serve as a witness along with a host of foreign delegates.
Arrival honors, a 21-gun salute and traditional music by Pangkat Kawayan greeted the visiting head of state.
After signing the guestbook, both leaders had a one-on-one meeting at the Music Room before an expanded bilateral meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room.
The President also hosted a luncheon in honor of Najib and his spouse, Rosmah Mansor.
Both leaders agreed that the visit was a “significant milestone” in bilateral relations and “signals a new phase of deeper and more robust ties between the two countries,” said a joint statement issued by the Palace.
Aquino and Najib welcomed the successful conclusion of the peace talks on Oct. 7 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the framework agreement was sealed during the 32nd round of exploratory talks.
They also looked forward to the successful conclusion of the negotiations on the annexes of the agreement creating the Bangsamoro territory.
Najib started his day by laying wreath to the Rizal Monument at the Rizal Park.
This is Najib’s first visit to the Philippines since he became prime minister in 2009.
Malaysia is also head of the International Monitoring Team, a group of countries monitoring compliance to a ceasefire mechanism in Mindanao, since 2004.
During his official visit, Najib will meet with leading Philippine business chief executive officers under the auspices of the Philippines-Malaysia Business Council.
The prime minister was accompanied by Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah bin Haji Aman, International Trade and Industry Minister Dato Mustapa bin Mohamed, Defense Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and other Malaysian government officials.
A business delegation led by AlloyMTD Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dato Azmil Khalid, the pro-tempore chair of the Kuala-Lumpur based Malaysia-Philippines Business Council, also joined the Malaysian entourage.
The prime minister’s wife will visit and deliver a speech at the Asian Institute of Management, where she studied her Basic Management Program in 1982.