KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will get a taste of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s (pic) brand of diplomacy when he arrives on a two-day state visit beginning Wednesday.
The tough-talking ex-mayor of Davao City has taken the fight to drug users and criminals in his country to a new high since assuming office on June 30, with his renewed support for their extra-judicial killings raising eyebrows around the world.
Nicknamed “The Punisher”, the 71-year-old will not be expected to mince his words here when he turns to the common enemy of both countries – the ruthless Abu Sayyaf militant group that has allied itself to the Islamic State.
Security issues will be high on the agenda, with bilateral talks to cover the multinational effort to counter piracy in the Straits of Malacca and the kidnapping-cum-terror activities of the Abu Sayyaf, which is based in and around Jolo and Basilan islands in southwestern Philippines.
“We have a lot to talk about piracy, kidnapping and criminality in the Malacca Strait.
“It’s very important that Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines talk about these and come up with solutions once and for all,” Duterte said in Manila.
Having already discussed a unified policing effort with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the Philippine leader will be eager to consult Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Duterte also wants both sides to address what he called “border crossings” of pirates and terrorists to the Philippine island of Sulu, an Abu Sayyaf hotbed located in waters between the two countries.
“With the two governments tough on crime, we are optimistic that we can have concrete progress in this area,” Philippine Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya told The Star.
There is already a regular network of patrols developed to respond to the threat in the form of the Malacca Straits Patrols (MSP) involving Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, as opposed to the Sulu Sea where things are just getting started.
The Najib-Duterte meeting will be closely watched after a testy start. During his presidential campaign, Duterte appeared to recognise the claim of the Sulu “sultanate” over Sabah which irked Wisma Putra.
A diplomatic official said the meeting will also give both leaders an opportunity to share notes on their highly-publicised and successful trips to China.
Another item on the agenda will be the Filipino domestic workers in Malaysia.
Duterte is also scheduled to address them and thousands of other Filipinos based here.
Both countries enjoy a healthy two-way flow of trade and investments, with bilateral trade totalling US$4.64bil (RM19.5bil) in 2015.
The president’s delegation will also include Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez and Mindanao Development Authority chairman Datu Abul Khayr Alonto.