Last week, Brunei’s second defense minister paid an official visit to the Philippines. Though the trip was just one engagement within the security relationship between the two Southeast Asian states, it nonetheless spotlighted some of the ongoing activity within this aspect of ties.
As I have noted before in these pages, Brunei and the Philippines have a defense relationship as part of their broader bilateral ties. Apart from usual components of defense ties such as visits, exchanges, and exercises, there are also more unique aspects as well, such as the fact that Brunei has some personnel deployed as part of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) headquartered in Cotabato city in Mindanao to help monitor the peace process ongoing in the southern Philippines.
Last week, the defense aspect of the bilateral relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of Brunei’s second minister of defense, Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Md Yussof, to the Philippines (the defense minister portfolio continues to be held by Brunei’s head of state, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah). The minister was on a visit to the Philippines that constituted an official trip to the country in his current position.
Halbi’s visit, which lasted from August 27 to August 30, consisted of a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, the minister met with a range of officials including Deputy National Security Advisor Rufino S. Lopez Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Per a statement released by Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF), during the meeting between the two ministers, both sides reviewed the existing state of the bilateral defense relationship and also exchanged views on a number of security issues of common interest in the region and beyond, including the role of multilateral institutions such as ASEAN which both Southeast Asian states are members of.
Apart from the meetings, his visit consisted of other engagements as well. For instance, per MINDEF, he traveled to Mindanao in the southern Philippines, where he visited the Grand Mosque as well as the Brunei International Monitoring Team Site 1 Headquarters in Cotabato City, where he received briefings on the latest situation in Mindanao, Brunei’s involvement there, and the situational progress of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB).
To be sure, the minister’s visit to the Philippines was just one of many security-related interactions between the two countries. Nonetheless, the trip spotlighted the ongoing efforts by the two Southeast Asian states to continue to develop the defense aspect of the relationship amid wider developments in their domestic and foreign policies.