Malaysia–Philippines relations

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Malaysia–Philippines relations
Map indicating locations of Malaysia and Philippines



Malaysia–Philippines relations (Malaysian: Hubungan Malaysia–Filipina; Filipino: Ugnayang Malaysia–Pilipinas) refers to foreign relations between Malaysia and the Philippines. The Philippines has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Manila and a consulate general in Davao City. The people of the two neighbouring countries have a long history of cultural and political relations.[1]

They are both founding members of ASEAN, both countries are of Malayo-Polynesian stock, and both are important trading partners. The two countries have participated in joint conservation and security measures in the Sulu Sea, which lies between the two countries.

Malaysia has assisted in peacekeeping efforts in Mindanao although in the past became the main contributor of weapon and training funds for the Moro rebels after the attempt of President Ferdinand Marcos to retake eastern Sabah under the claim of the Sultanate of Sulu by forces through "Operation Merdeka".[2][3] Following the arrest of Nur Misuari in 2001, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in a statement that they did not fund the insurgencies any more despite continuous conflicts until present.[4] Both countries are now involved in the ongoing disputes over ownership of the Spratly Islands and parts of Sabah.

Country comparison[edit]

 Federation of Malaysia  Republic of the Philippines
Coat of Arms Coat of arms of Malaysia.svg Coat of arms of the Philippines.svg
Flag Malaysia Philippines
Population 31,360,000 100,981,437
Area 330,803 km2 (127,724 sq mi) 300,000 km2 (120,000 sq mi)
Population Density 92/km2 (240/sq mi) 125/km2 (320/sq mi)
Time zones 1 1
Capital Kuala Lumpur Manila
Largest City Kuala Lumpur – 1,768,000 Quezon City – 2,936,116
Government Federal parliamentary elective constitutional monarchy Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Established 31 August 1957 (Independence from the British Empire proclaimed for the Federation of Malaya)
16 September 1963 (Proclamation of Malaysia)
12 June 1898 (Independence from the Spanish Empire proclaimed for the Philippines)
4 July 1946 (Granted by the United States)
Predecessor States Portuguese Colonial Period (1511–1641)
Portuguese Malacca (1511–1641)
Dutch Colonial Period (1641–1825)
Dutch Malacca (1641–1795; 1818–1825)
British Colonial Period (1771–1946)
Straits Settlements (1826–1946)
 Federated Malay States (1895–1946)
Unfederated Malay States (1909–1946)
 Kingdom of Sarawak (1841–1946)
Crown Colony of Labuan (1848–1946)
 British North Borneo (1881–1946)
Japanese Occupation Period (1942–1945)
Occupied Malaya (1942–1945)
Occupied British Borneo (1942–1945)
Si Rat Malai (1943–1945)
Interim Military Period (1945–1946)
Military Administration of Malaya (1945–1946)
Military Administration of Borneo (1945–1946)
Self–Government Period (1946–1963)
 Malayan Union (1946–1948)
 Federation of Malaya (1948–1963)
Crown Colony of North Borneo (1946–1963)
Crown Colony of Sarawak (1946–1963)
Federation Period (1963–present)
 Federation of Malaysia (1963–present)
Spanish Colonial Period (1521–1898)
Spanish East Indies (1565–1898)
British Manila (1762–1764)
Sovereign Tagalog Nation (1896–1897)
Revolutionary Government (1897)
 Republic of the Philippines (1897)
American Military Period (1898–1902)
Dictatorial Government (1898)
 Revolutionary Government (1898–1899)
Military Government of the Philippine Islands (1898–1902)
 Philippine Republic (1899–1902)
American Insular Period (1902–1946)
Insular Government of the Philippine Islands (1901–1935)
Tagalog Republic (1902–1906)
Commonwealth of the Philippines (1935–1946)
Japanese Occupation Period (1942–1945)
Philippine Executive Commission (1942–1943)
 Republic of the Philippines (1943–1945)
Independent Period (1946–present)
 Republic of the Philippines (1946–present)
First Leader Abdul Rahman of Negeri Sembilan (Monarch)
Tunku Abdul Rahman (Prime Minister)
Emilio Aguinaldo (official)
Manuel L. Quezon (de jure)
Head of State Monarch: Muhammad V President: Rodrigo Duterte
Head of Government Prime Minister: Najib Razak
Legislature Parliament (Bicameral) Congress (Bicameral)
Upper House Senate
President: S. Vigneswaran
President: Aquilino Pimentel III
Lower House House of Representatives
Speaker: Pandikar Amin Mulia
House of Representatives
Speaker: Pantaleon Alvarez
Judiciary Federal Court
Chief Justice: Md Raus Sharif
Supreme Court
Chief Justice: Maria Lourdes Sereno
National language Malaysian Filipino
GDP (nominal) $800.169 billion ($25,833 per capita) US$811.726 billion ($7,846 per capita)


In 1959, shortly after Federation of Malaya, the predecessor state of Malaysia, became independent, the Philippines established a legation in Kuala Lumpur.[5] Both countries are current members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the Asian Union.[6] In 1961, the Philippine legation was elevated into an embassy. On the same year, then Philippine President Carlos P. Garcia made a state visit to Malaya where he discussed the formation of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with then Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. The ASEAN was founded in 8 August 1967 by five Southeast Asian states including then Malaya and the Philippines.[7]

Together with the Indonesia, the two countries were also members of Maphilindo, a short-lived nonpolitical union formed during a summit in Manila from 31 July to 5 August 1963. The organisation was dismantled after one month, partly due to Indonesia's policy of Konfrontasi with Malaysia.[8] The two countries co-operate closely in many areas.[9][10][11][12]

Diplomatic relations[edit]


The western Malayo-Polynesian languages, under the simplifying classification of Wouk & Ross (2002).
  Borneo–Philippines (not shown: Yami in Taiwan)
  Sunda–Sulawesi (not shown: Chamorro)
  Central Malayo-Polynesian
  Halmahera–Geelvink Bay
  the westernmost Oceanic languages

The people of the island complex that includes Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are ethnically similar, with most speaking closely related Malayo-Polynesian languages.[13] Both countries also have large Chinese minorities, who often maintain close cross-border ties.[14]


Malaysia and the Philippines are important trading partners.[15][16][17][18][19][20] In 2002, the Philippines was the 16th largest export market and the 9th largest import market of Malaysia. Malaysia on the other hand is the 7th largest export market and 8th largest import market of the Philippines. Malaysia is also second main source of foreign investments for the Philippines among all of the members of the ASEAN countries.[21]

Labour and domestic workers[edit]

Most Filipinos near the border have been traditionally engaging in barter trade with the coastal people in eastern Sabah since the Sultanate of Sulu period and maintains close relationship between them with a constant movement of people from the southern Philippines to Sabah. The barter system was stopped in 2016 when Malaysia close its border prior to the persistent kidnapping of its tourists and citizens by militant groups based in the southern Philippines. There are many transient workers from the Philippines in Malaysia, subject to periodic expulsions by Malaysia due to overstaying and involved in crimes.[22][23]

Marine conservation and security collaboration[edit]

Malaysia and the Philippines have participated in joint conservation measures in the Sulu Sea, which lies between the two countries.[24][25] Both countries, together with Indonesia are working together to secure Sulu Sea against piracy and extremist militant groups based in the southern Philippines such as the Abu Sayyaf.[26]

Aid from Malaysia[edit]

During the 2013 Bohol earthquake, the Malaysian Government has donated a total of MYR100,000 for children affected by the disaster.[27] While after the Typhoon Haiyan hit Philippines, the Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has quickly contacted the Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to determine the aid required.[28] Malaysian Filipinos communities also help to collect relief items to be sent to the country.[29] By 13 November, the Malaysian Government has donated a total of $1 million along with the sending of essential items such as food and medicines worth $310 thousand using the RMAF Charlie C-130 aircraft.[30][31] One of Malaysian major commercial bank Maybank also contributed to donate $330,000 to the Philippine Red Cross along with the arriving of the Malaysian disaster relief team.[32][33] While on 22 November, the Malaysian Red Crescent has raised a total of $55,000 donations from the Malaysian citizens and deploy a Rapid Deployment Squad to the Philippines.[34] In 2014, the Malaysian state of Sarawak also had delivered P1.32M to help the Yolanda (Haiyan) typhoon survivors to continue their lives.[35]

Malaysia also become the main facilitator for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro to create peace and establish the Bangsamoro area in Southern Philippines, but the peace process was put on hold in 2015 after the killing of 44 Special Action Force Filipino soldiers by Islamic insurgents that were formerly funded by Malaysia.[36]

Following the Battle of Marawi, the Malaysian Armed Forces mulling to send humanitarian relief for the civilians in the city.[37] Through the country RMAF A400M, food and medical supplies are being sent for the city internally-displaced residents,[38] with more humanitarian aid are being promised as the situation worsened.[39][40]

Disputes and diplomatic incidents[edit]

Sabah dispute[edit]

Between September 1963 and May 1964, diplomatic relations between the two countries were suspended due to a dispute over the Philippines’ claim to North Borneo, which the eastern part had once been part of the Sulu Sultanate. Relations were suspended again, due to the same issue, between 1968 and 1969.[41][42][43][44][45]

In February 2013, a group of armed men claiming to have been sent by Jamalul Kiram III, a self-proclaimed Sultanate of Sulu have landed in Sabah which led to an armed clashed with the Malaysian security forces. During the standoff, at least 56 Sulu forces were killed including 6 civilians and 10 Malaysian forces.[46][47][48][49] His desperate action were widely criticised by both Sabah residents and Filipino migrants and expatriates in Sabah as the main cause for the increase of Anti-Filipino sentiment, negative perceptions and discrimination towards Filipinos in the state.[50][51]

The Philippine government offered numerous attempts to Malaysia to resolve the dispute through an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in the United Nations,[citation needed] although recent Philippine government attempt for intervention on the Ligitan and Sipadan dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia on the basis of its claim to Sabah was rejected by the ICJ in 2002.[52] In 2016, Malaysia officially closed its Sabah borders from the Philippines, effectively rising the cost of goods in three provinces in the southern Philippines, namely, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and Basilan prior to the infiltration of illegal immigrants and persistent kidnapping by militant groups based in the southern Philippines. In the same year, the Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte announced in a live telecast that his new administration will pursue the Philippine claim on eastern Sabah through a peaceful dialogue with the Malaysian government.[53] However, prior to the recent meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Duterte in late 2016, both leaders have agreed to set aside the issues on "back burner" as President Duterte want to focus more to the social condition improvements of Filipino migrants in Sabah.[54] Both leaders have reach an agreement to establish a school, hospital and a consulate in Sabah to make an easy contact with the Philippine central government for any problems facing by the Filipino community in the state, while deporting "problematic and undocumented Filipino refugees and immigrants" that has long been a thorn in bilateral ties for both countries.[55]

Claim over Spratly Islands[edit]

Malaysia and the Philippines both claim a portion of the disputed Spratly Islands, some or all of which are also claimed by Vietnam, the People's Republic of China, and the Republic of China. The Philippines have had a claim on the islands, officially since independence in 1946, though they have only actively pursued the claims since 1956. In 1979, they said they only wanted seven of the islands that were under their control.[56] Malaysia has staked a claim since 1976, claiming the southern islands which is nearest to them as part of their country under the Law of the Sea regarding continental shelf. But unlike the Philippines, along with Vietnam, who has internationalised the dispute due to Chinese aggression,[57] Malaysia has a weak stand on the issue as the country receiving large infrastructure development investments from China, thus cannot pressure its claims more aggressively.[58]

Sabah attacks and Mindanao conflict[edit]

It is believed that the Philippine government under Ferdinand Marcos were once planning an attack to "destabilise" Sabah through an operation known as the "Operation Merdeka".[2] As a consequence, the Malaysian government were once supporting the insurgency in Mindanao, although recently Malaysia has assisted in the peacekeeping efforts.[3][4][59][60] The threats were continued until today when some Filipino politicians seems supporting militants raids over Malaysia,[61][62] which threatening ties between the two countries.[63] Due to the frequent threats and attacks, the Royal Malaysia Police and the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister has made a proposal to ban barter trade between Malaysia and the Philippines as it was seen only benefited to one side and threatening the security of the state.[64][65] This was enforced then although facing numerous opposition from the Malaysian opposition parties and Filipino resident on the nearest Philippine islands due to the raise of the living cost in their region after the ban, while receiving positive welcomes by Sabahans residents and politicians.[66][67][68] The barter trade activity was resumed on 1 February 2017 with the increase of security surveillance and enforcement from both Malaysia and the Philippines authorities to jointly secure their borders.[69][70] Despite the return of barter trade activity, the state of Sabah has maintained they will always be cautious on their trade with the Philippines.[71]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ a b "Marcos order: Destabilize, take Sabah". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2 April 2000. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Kate McGeown (24 February 2013). "How do you solve a problem like Sabah?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 13 July 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Philippines rebel leader arrested". BBC News. 25 November 2001. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2015. Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police Norian Mai said Mr Misuari and six of his followers were arrested at 3.30 am on Saturday (1930 GMT Friday) on Jampiras island off Sabah state. Manila had ordered his arrest on charges of instigating a rebellion after the government suspended his governorship of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao, the ARMM. Although the Philippines has no extradition treaty with Malaysia, the authorities have already made clear that they intend to hand Mr Misuari over to the authorities in Manila as soon as possible. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said before the arrest that, although his country had provided support to the rebel group in the past in its bid for autonomy, Mr Misuari had not used his powers correctly. "Therefore, we no longer feel responsible to provide him with any assistance," he said. 
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External links[edit]