Mahathir: Malaysia to support peaceful Bangsamoro transition

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 7) — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that he looks forward to a peaceful Mindanao, as it could lead to the prosperity of both the Philippines and Malaysia.

"I believe with the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM, we have to boost economic ties between both countries," Mahathir said in a press statement delivered with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.

Malaysia helped facilitate the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which led to the signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the creation of the BARMM.

"I look forward to the smooth transition of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao through the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," Mahathir said, expressing Malaysia's "desire to continue to be of help in Mindanao."

The Prime Minister cited the areas of infrastructure development, education, health care and tourism as key areas for trade.

He said he and Duterte discussed programs for teachers and students in Madrasahs or Islamic schools, especially in Mindanao.

READ: Malaysian PM Mahathir calls for increased investments, trade with Philippines

In a speech later at a banquet held in his honor, Mahathir said that Malaysia will continue to work with the Philippines on issues of peace in Mindanao.

"So to the extent that we can be useful, we are always ready to work with our neighbors in order to resolve problems which in a way of course affect us as well," he said.

Mahathir and Duterte also discussed other security issues during the former's two-day official visit to the country. These include combating piracy, terrorism, transnational crimes, illegal drugs and the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The Malaysian leader said his country is committed to take the necessary steps to address terrorism and violent extremism through its Trilateral Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines and Indonesia.

Under that agreement, the three countries have agreed to undertake unilateral maritime and air patrols to tackle the growing security challenges in their maritime borders.

The rotational naval and air patrols, as well as information sharing and communications, are supported by the Joint Maritime Coordinating Centers in Tarakan, Indonesia; Tawau, Malaysia; and Bongao, Philippines.