[VIDEO: Sultan of Brunei lays wreath at Rizal monument]

MANILA, APRIL 16, 2013 (ABS-CBN) President Benigno Aquino III will not discuss the tensions in Sabah, Malaysia during his meeting with Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah tomorrow.

"I can safely say Sabah is not going to be an issue,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

The Sultan of Brunei is scheduled to arrive today in Manila for a two-day state visit upon the invitation of President Aquino. His journey to Manila reciprocates Aquino’s state visit to Brunei back in June 2011.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the President and the Sultan will discuss, among others, Brunei’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as the strengthening of Philippines-Brunei bilateral relations.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Sultan of Brunei has a full schedule in his state visit and may have no time to meet Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III over the Sabah crisis.

The schedule is quite tight. I don’t see any opportunity for that – or, at least, for the visit of the Sultan here,” Valte said over state-run radio dzRB when she was asked if the Palace would allow Bolkiah to meet Kiram over the Sabah standoff. With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News and the Philippine Star



Brunei Sultan, Aquino vow closer cooperation By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:07 am | Wednesday, April 17th, 2013


MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino on Tuesday vowed closer cooperation with visiting Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and other regional leaders to find a peaceful solution to territorial conflicts in the South China Sea.

At a state luncheon for the Sultan, the President said the government wanted to “move forward” with negotiations on a code of conduct to reduce disputes in the international waterway.

The President referred to rival claims by the Philippines and fellow Asean members Malaysia and Vietnam, along with Taiwan and China over the Spratly islands and the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

“This is our pledge: to continue working with our neighbors in implementing the commitments of Asean member states in the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and in moving forward with negotiations for the adoption of a Code of Conduct,” Aquino said.

The Sultan’s visit comes a week before leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations converge in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 24 and 25 for their 22nd summit. Brunei is this year’s chair of Asean, which also includes the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Burma (Myanmar).

Bolkiah, for his part, vowed to foster peace and stability in southeast Asia. He also praised Aquino for his peace initiatives with Moro rebels in Mindanao.

Bolkiah said Brunei, as Asean chair this year, would “continue to work closely with the Philippines towards achieving concrete outcomes in economic growth and social progress, and in promoting regional peace and stability.”

Aquino welcomed Bolkiah to Malacañang at past 10 a.m. after the latter laid a wreath at the monument of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal at the Rizal Park. A 21-gun salute boomed as the President and the Sultan stood on a platform while the anthems of both countries were played.

Bolkiah was set to fly out at around 3 p.m.

Malaysian PM to skip Asean summit By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 19, 2013 - 1:00am

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

MANILA, Philippines - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will not be attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Brunei next week, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Najib dissolved parliament on April 3, paving the way for fresh elections next month.

The 59-year-old Najib, who took office in 2009, is facing voters for the first time as leader of the 13-party coalition.

A ranking official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Najib will not attend the summit.

“We understand he is not attending,” the official told The STAR.

The DFA said on Wednesday that President Aquino and Prime Minister Najib have no scheduled bilateral meeting during the summit in Brunei on April 24 to 25 and that the Sabah claim would not be discussed by the two leaders.

The sultanate of Sulu said yesterday that the Philippines and Malaysia will “covertly” discuss the Sabah claim of its heirs during the ASEAN summit.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the heirs of the sultanate, said the Sabah standoff has now become a regional issue that the Philippines and Malaysia and the rest of the ASEAN members could not afford to ignore.

Idjirani said yesterday that despite the pronouncement of the DFA that the Sabah claim will not be raised by the Philippines during the ASEAN summit, the Sultanate of Sulu believes that Philippine and Malaysian officials would discuss the issue “covertly.”

“It will be discussed. But it will be done covertly. The Philippines and Malaysia do not want to alarm the other member countries about the seriousness of the issue,” said Idjirani.

The crisis started when supporters of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu forced a standoff with Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu, Sabah last February.

Malaysian forces later launched air strikes and ground assault that allegedly killed several Filipino gunmen and Malaysian soldiers.

Many Filipinos residing in the affected areas in Sabah have evacuated and returned to Tawi-Tawi and other parts of Mindanao.

Idjirani said Indonesia would be one of the ASEAN member countries that would be alarmed if the standoff in Sabah is not resolved.

“Sabah is a neighboring territory of Kalimantan. (Indonesia) does not want to be alarmed by the situation. Malaysia and Indonesia are neighbors. Indonesia may appeal to Malaysia or the Philippines to take things slow,” Idjirani added.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said President Aquino and Razak have no scheduled bilateral meeting during the summit in Brunei on April 24 to 25. With Mike Frialde

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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