BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – During a meeting of the Legislative Council (LegCo) on Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) tabled a budget of $113 million for the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

The Second Minister of Foreign Affairs, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Erywan Pehin Dato Pekerma Jaya Hj Mohd Yusof, said the budget would be used for staff salaries and recurring expenses, with an additional $8 million for development expenditure.

He did not detail the breakdown of spending for MFA, but instead reiterated the core values of Brunei’s foreign policy.

“The main objective of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to ensure the sovereignty of the king and country, to defend the sovereignty and independence of the country, the integrity of the border, as well as the political, cultural and religious identity through mutual respect.”

“[We] do not intervene in the [domestic] affairs of other countries, but prioritise peace and cooperation for mutual benefit. This is our foreign policy that has been practiced since attaining full independence,” he said.

Modern challenges to diplomacy have emerged, the minister added, with issues such as fake news, disruptive technology, and violent extremism.

These problems need to be addressed through joint efforts between friendly nations, as well as cooperation in regional and international organisations, he said.

Brunei Darussalam has established diplomatic ties with 170 countries and has 43 representative offices across the world, including regional organisations such as ASEAN and the United Nations.

YB Dato Hj Erywan said MFA has worked with the Ministry of Home Affairs to relax visa rules for several countries, including China, which is now Brunei’s top tourism market.

“This is one of the ways in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can help boost the country’s economy.”

The minister also urged Bruneians travelling abroad to register with the nearest embassy or consulate via the “e-register” feature on their website.

The system enables nationals and permanent residents of Brunei Darussalam to share their travel itinerary and contact details with MFA, so representatives can extend assistance in case of emergencies, such as natural disasters, terror attacks or sudden illness.

YB Dato Hj Erywan said more Bruneians need to register when they travel, adding that any information shared is kept confidential.