MALACANANG, January 19, 2004
(OPS) Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will discuss with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo improvement of bilateral relations and vital security concerns, when he makes a two-day state visit to the Philippines starting tomorrow.

Prime Minister Badawi, who succeeded Dr. Mahathir Mohammed as Prime Minister in October 2003, will arrive at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City at 8:30 P.M. Monday. He is flying in from Laos, the previous stopover of his orientation journey through Southeast Asia.

This marks Badawi’s first visit to the Philippines as a Prime Minister, although he had been frequently to the country in his capacity as Malaysia’s deputy Prime Minister and foreign minister.

The Malaysian Prime Minister and his official entourage are billeted at the Shangrila Hotel in Makati City where they will spend the night before plunging into a busy round of activities the whole of Tuesday.

Prime Minister Badawi is expected to arrive at Malacañang Palace at 10:00 A.M. where military honors await him as soon as he set foot at the Kalayaan ground. After a ceremonial walk with the President, the Prime Minister will sign the Guest Book at the Ante Room of the Palace Reception Hall.

President Macapagal-Arroyo and Prime Minister Badawi will then proceed to the Music Room of Malacañang for a private meeting. This is to be followed by a bilateral meeting in which senior officials of both governments will be present. The two leaders had their first one-on-one meeting in Tokyo at the sideline of the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit last January

The President and the Prime Minister are expected take up, among other matters, bilateral issues and the latest developments in connection with Malaysia’s efforts to broker a peace parley between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Domingo Albert has affirmed Malaysia’s "central and exclusive role" in brokering the government-MILF peace talks. "We have had very involved discussions with Malaysia on their central and exclusive role in our peace talks with the MILF," she said.

After recalling that Prime Minister Badawi had assured President Macapagal-Arroyo in Tokyo on Malaysia’s commitment to broker the RP-MILF peace talks, Albert said, "We are very grateful for Malaysia’s commitment to peace and we look forward to the holding of the peace talks shortly."

Following the bilateral meeting, President Macapagal-Arroyo and Prime Minister Badawi will conduct a joint press conference at the Palace Ceremonial Hall.

At noon Tuesday, President Macapagal-Arroyo will host a luncheon in honor of the visiting Malaysian Prime Minister at the State Dining Room of Malacañang. Afterwards, the visitors will motor back to the hotel and prepare for their departure via the Villamor Airbase.

Badawi is the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia since the country’s independence from Britain in 1957.

The new Malaysian Prime Minister has been described by media in his country as "a safe pair of hands, a clean and honest administrator, but someone who, nevertheless, has gained a tough reputation in his treatment of political opponents and alleged terrorists."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved