Philippine president arrives in Riyadh

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived here Monday on a three-day visit to meet Saudi leaders for investment, trade and support for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom.

Duterte and some 40 officials from various ministries were received by Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar.

Saudi Arabia is the first leg of Duterte’s Gulf tour. He will visit Bahrain from Wednesday through Friday, and Qatar from Friday through Sunday. He is scheduled to meet King Salman, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

A statement from the presidential office said the state visits aim “to strengthen efforts for the protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare of the more than 1 million of our people working in those countries; invite Middle Eastern investors to the Philippines to usher in progress here at home; and to forge stronger partnerships by elevating our political and economic cooperation with these countries to new heights.”

There are about 760,000 Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, 60,000 in Bahrain and 250,000 in Qatar. Duterte will meet with their representatives in Riyadh, Manama and Doha.

The Middle East, mainly the Gulf countries, is the second-largest source of remittances, with 28 percent or almost $7.6 billion sent to the Philippines in 2016 alone.

In the three countries, Duterte will “explore partnerships in tourism development, halal food security, Islamic finance, energy security and investments,” said Hjayceelyn Quintana of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

“He will invite these countries to invest particularly in Mindanao as a way of lifting Mindanao out of poverty and conflict” between the army and Filipino Muslim rebels.

Abdul Gani Macatoman, co-chairman of the Foreign Chamber Council and a member of the presidential team, told Arab News that Duterte will focus on attracting foreign investments to his country’s halal industry.

Abdul Hanan Tago, a special envoy from the Philippines Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), said seven memoranda of understanding (MoUs) will be signed during the presidential visit. PEZA Director-General Charito Plaza is slated to sign the deals with members of the private sector in the Kingdom.


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