DOHA, QATAR—President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Sunday, April 17, concluded his week-long Gulf state visit to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar with great pride, renewed hope, and big deals.
“You’re very lucky to have him as a leader. He knows what he wants for the nation,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella quoted a Qatari business leader as saying.
Duterte returned to the Philippines bringing with him more than 150 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were granted amnesty by the Saudi government.
During his state visits, the President had witnessed the signing of more than USD 925-million worth of investment deals, which was expected to generate around 62,000 jobs, Abella recounted.
Duterte also saw, his Spokesperson added, signing of agreements on labor, diplomatic, health, culture, and economic cooperations.
On counter terrorism, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon met with his counterpart in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for a working exchange of information to combat ISIS threats.
In connection to that, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar talked to his counterpart as well in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain about the prospect of exchanging news and information between the Philippines and their country.
“We all know that the fight against terrorism is not limited to guns and bullets. It is an ideological war and we are talking about information that we can disseminate in the Muslim area in the Philippines,” Andanar said, adding that the advent of Salaam Television was something to look forward to in the area of media and broadcasting.
“It’s a whole of government approach and region-to-region or country-to-country exchange,” Esperon added.
Foreign Affairs Acting Secretary Enrique Manalo, on the other hand, disclosed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) in the field of culture he signed on behalf of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
“(T)his will aim at reinforcing cultural programs, encouraging bilateral cultural exchanges and activities, such as, including musical, theatrical, and artistic groups, and promoting each of our country’s culture and arts in our respective countries. The MOU would also call for artistic exhibition and exchange of literary works. This would be also an important step in enhancing our relation,” Manalo explained.
On health care, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial disclosed about an MOU between Qatar and the Philippines, which was basically a cooperation on all important fields of health, particularly on research and exchange of expertise to promote the principles of reciprocity and mutual benefit.
“So it’s a very comprehensive agreement and we hope to be able to really put this into effect so that there is a bilateral exchange of expertise,” Ubial said.
On the investment protection and promotion agreement, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said it provides the basic rights and guarantees to investors.
“It gives also like a most favored nation-type of treatment, equal treatment for both sides of investments being made. Of course, the identification of opportunities, cooperation in that field, assistance, ease of doing business are all included therein,” Lopez explained.
Lopez also mentioned that the agreement will pave the way for greater Qatar investments in the Philippines and the implementation of the committed USD 1-billion investments from the Qatar Sovereign Fund, which can lead to an even higher allocation in the future.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, meanwhile, announced the commitment made by the Qatari Minister of Labor to facilitate the repatriation of 86 OFW female wards at the shelter of the PHL Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Doha. This was alongside talks between Secretary Bello and the Saudi Minister of Labor and Social Development on facilitated repatriation of wards at the POLO shelter in Riyadh and Jeddah, as well as smooth implementation of the amnesty for undocumented Filipinos in Saudi Arabia.