Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reaffirmed the country's diplomatic ties with Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia during the golden jubilee celebrations of Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah's accession to the state's Kingdom.
Duterte, who now chairs the ASEAN economic bloc, joined hundreds of state leaders and diplomats in Brunei to observe Brunei's historic event honouring the monarch leader.
Philippine government spokesman Ernesto Abella told Philippine journalists that Duterte also lauded His Majesty (Bolkiah) for supporting peace efforts in Mindanao.
Malaysia and Brunei have been sending teams to monitor the series of peace dialogues between the Philippines Government negotiating panel and representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a revolutionary organization fighting for a separate Islamic state.
Despite being a small state with only less than a half million population, Brunei remains to be one of the world's richest states in terms of household income. The state has also become a working destination for highly skilled Filipinos.
Duterte is interested in strengthening both diplomatic and economic ties with Brunei and deepen bilateral cooperation with the neighbouring state to advance efforts toward a more peaceful, prosperous Asean community.
World leaders also graced the lavish event that included Jordan's King Abdullah II, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, Great Britain's Prince Edward and Princess Sophie, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, , Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and Indonesia's leader Joko Widodo
Also in the event were Laos Vice President Phankham Viphavanh, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Vietnam's Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, Myanmar's Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Oman's Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Asaad bin Tariq al-Said.
The Duterte administration earlier announced that among his priority as the elected Philippine leader is to build strong diplomatic ties with the ASEAN neighbours before moving to other regions. Known for his China-leaning stance, particularly in the South China Sea dispute, Duterte is facing a tough challenge in the ASEAN community, where most members opposed China's reclamation moves in the disputed waters.
Opposition leaders in the Philippines have also been challenging Duterte, as the ASEAN chair, to assert the Philippine's right to sovereignty on the group of islands located within the country's 200-mile exclusive economize zone.