$500-b ME gains eyed

Duterte embarks on state visits to 3 Arab nations

MORE than $500 billion in combined investments in tourism, halal food security, Islamic finance and energy are being targeted when President Rodrigo Duterte goes on state visits to three Middle East countries next week, the Foreign Affairs department said Friday.

In a news briefing, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Hjayceelyn Quintana said the President will fly to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar from April 10 to 16 during the Holy Week to meet with the countries’ leaders and Filipinos working in those countries.

“The President hopes that through the stronger partnerships he will forge during this visit, he can tap into the over $500-billion combined investment capital of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and State of Qatar and bring home more investment and jobs for our people,” Quintana told Palace reporters.

The state visit to the three countries “aims to strengthen efforts for the protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare of the more than one million of our people working in those three countries, invite investors to the Philippines and usher in progress here at home, and to forge stronger partnerships by elevating our political and economic cooperation with these countries to new heights,” she added.

The Gulf states, despite the economic challenges they are currently facing from reduced revenues due to low oil prices, remain an important region for the Philippines.

Duterte will meet with His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia in his visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from April 10-12, while in Manama, Bahrain.

President Rodrigo Duterte

He will then proceed to Manama, Bahrain to meet with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa from April 12 to 14.

In Doha, Qatar, the President is scheduled to meet with the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on April 14 to 16, 2017.

Agreements will be signed on labor, agriculture, air services, culture, health and political bilateral consultations during his state visits. He will also speak to the Filipino community there.

Duterte will also discuss with the leaders matters relevant to the welfare and dignity of the Filipinos living in their countries, as well as explore avenues for economic and political cooperation—including partnerships in tourism development, halal food security, Islamic finance and energy security, countering terrorism and combating illicit drugs.

He will also invite these countries to invest, particularly in Mindanao, as a way of lifting the region out of both poverty and conflict.

The Middle East is the second-largest source of remittances, with 28 percent or almost $7.6 billion in 2016. Out of that 28 percent, more than a third was remitted by Filipino workers based in Saudi Arabia, the second top source of remittances.

According to the Department of Energy, 87 percent of the total crude mix came from the Middle East, of which 36.1 percent came from Saudi Arabia, the top supplier of crude oil into the country.  

Topics: President Rodrigo Duterte , Middle East countries , Foreign Affairs department , Investments , Tourism
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