WITH its "prosper thy neighbor" advocacy, Malaysia turning 65 also serves as a milestone for the relationship between Malaysia and the Philippines.

This relationship, which commenced in 1959, is more than "business as usual" and definitely goes beyond trade and investment. It is a bond that is solidified through deep connection within their shared history, cultural linkages, family ties and people-to-people exchanges.

Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Dato’ Norman
Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Dato’ Norman

The last high-level visit was when YB Dato' Sri Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, attended the inauguration ceremony of the 17th President of the Republic of the Philippines, Ferdinand "Bong Bong" Marcos Jr. on June 30, 2022.

Malaysia regards the Philippines as a very important trading partner – 15th largest trading partner globally and the fifth largest among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member-countries with the total bilateral trade reaching almost US$8 billion.

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The close and long existing relations between Malaysia and the Philippines provide a strong foundation for a more active and meaningful economic cooperation in the future that would bring tremendous benefits to their respective peoples.

Two practical and viable areas that would benefit from closer cooperation are the halal industry and digital economy.

Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs YB Dato’ Sri Saifuddin Abdullah greets President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on his inauguration as 17th President of the Philippines on June 30, 2022 in Manila.
Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs YB Dato’ Sri Saifuddin Abdullah greets President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on his inauguration as 17th President of the Philippines on June 30, 2022 in Manila.

In the halal industry, Malaysia remains a major global leader in the Halal economy, sustaining its top position in the Global Islamic Economic Indicators (GIEI) for the ninth consecutive year. Thus with the Philippine government encouraging more halal business expansion and investment to serve 12 million Muslims as well as non-Muslim population, it is definitely one of the areas that Malaysia and the Philippines can collaborate together.

Secondly, as the Asean economy becomes more integrated, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, digital and e-commerce has been the preferred and to a certain extent, the only option of doing business. Hence, Malaysian and Philippine companies in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should ride on the digital wave and collaborate in digital initiatives to better succeed in the post Covid-19 era.

In addition, Malaysia also takes pride for being one of the global pioneers in Islamic banking. Leveraging on existing capacities and expertise, Malaysia is also offering tertiary education in Islamic banking and finance through International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF).

INCEIF has been collaborating with government institutions such as the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Program (MTCP) in providing training on Islamic banking products such as Islamic securities, Islamic unit trust funds, stock broking and financial derivatives which comply with the Islamic guidelines.

Malaysia is home to 20 public universities, 435 private higher education institutions, 105 community colleges, and 36 polytechnics.

Since Malaysia and the Philippines have so many common factors, Filipinos would feel at home when studying in Malaysia.

With this year's Malaysia National Day celebration theme as "Keluarga Malaysia Teguh Bersama" or "Malaysian Family Strong Together," it could not be more apt considering how for the past couple of years Malaysians have faced the Covid-19 pandemic; with loss of lives and livelihoods as well as separation from families and loved ones, and survived together as a family.

By extension of the Malaysian family, is of course, its regional family.

"We hope to grow and cooperate together with the Philippines, building a better tomorrow, striving toward a mutually beneficial future for this generation and the generations to come," Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah said.