By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte is set to sign agreements in the areas of labor, science, defense, and trade and investment during his historic visit to Israel on September 2 to 5, and the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan on September 6 to 8, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
DFA Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said the President’s visit is aimed at renewing and enhancing ties with both countries.
“These trips will be the first by a sitting Philippine president to both countries. The visits will mark historic milestones, benefit trade, and strengthen relationships with key partners in the Middle East,” he said.
Abella said the President’s visit to Israel upon the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pursuant to his independent foreign policy and should not affect the Philippines’ relations with countries that do not recognize Israel as a state.
In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, Abella said the trip to Israel is pursuant to President Duterte’s independent foreign policy that the Philippines is a friend to all and an enemy to none. He said the tension between Israel and Jordan should not affect the Philippines’ ties with each of them.
“We have multilateral relations, and as we point it out we’re friends to all and enemies to none. And this should not serve as any obstacle with our ongoing bilateral relationships with each of these nations,” he said.
The former Palace spokesperson also said that the DFA is aware that not all countries recognize Israel as a sovereign state due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of the 192 members of the United Nations, only 161 recognize Israel as an independent state.
“The Philippines is really a friend to all and enemy to none and there are certain sensitivities that we are aware of, considering that we do have partners in the Middle East areas, other partners. So there are sensitivities to those matters,” Abella said.
“We are aware of certain sensitivities. But I believe we have reached a stage of maturity in our relations that they understand, each one of them, for example, those host countries whom we consider partners, they are aware also that we are in relationship with other nations like for example Israel. So it’s important that we strike a balance,” he added.
Abella also said that the international recognition of Israel as a sovereign state will not pose as a challenge as President Duterte has proven that the Philippines is really a friend to all.
In Israel, the Philippine government will sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the employment of Filipino caregivers, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on scientific cooperation, and an MOU between the Philippines’ Board of Investments and Invest in Israel.
In Jordan, Abella said the Philippine government will sign an MOA on the employment of domestic workers, and an MOU on labor cooperation. The government will also ink an MOU on defense cooperation while an investment agreement with Jordan’s Investment Commission and the enhancement of two-way trade and investments are also expected.
Aside from the said agreements, Abella said the Philippines is also seeking to enhance foreign relations with Jordan through political consultations.
The President’s visit to Jordan is upon the invitation of His Majesty King Abdullah II.
“Both these visits will be a huge leap in the Philippines’ bilateral partnerships with both countries after decades of diplomatic relations. We are to build on these relationships and our nations have much to gain from deepening ties, enhancing economic cooperation, and sharing expertise in science and agriculture,” he said.
In the field of science, Abella explained that the MOU with Israel is meant to promote research exchanges in scientific fields which both parties deem important to achieve sustainable growth.
Abella, meanwhile, explained that Duterte’s trip to the two middle-eastern countries is also aimed to clarify the working conditions of at least 28,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Israel, and some 40,000 OFWs in Jordan.
With Jordan, he said that there is a need to clarify the working conditions, and determine the regulation of the deployment of labor, the development of a database, the exchange of information, and the promotion and protection of the welfare of workers among others.
“So specifically Jordan, there doesn’t seem to be at this stage any drastic cry for the well-being, but there is a demand for the improvement of procedures in order to ensure the well-being of workers, laborers there are ensured,” Abella said.
Abella said that the labor agreements with Israel and Jordan will be unique to both countries and will not be the same as the one established with Kuwait which stemmed from the death of Filipina domestic worker Joanna Demafelis.
“There will be specifics, it will be unique to both. It’s sort of bespoke. The intention is the same to ensure the well-being and protection, especially protection of our workers,” he said.
“Strengthening ties with these nations will promote economic growth, create new employment opportunities, and enhance security,” he added.
“A closer relationship with these nations means more opportunity to share expertise with each other in the fields of science, agriculture, industry and counter-terrorism,” he continued.
With Israel, the Philippines is celebrating the 81st anniversary of the Open Doors policy under then President Manuel L. Quezon who offered shelter to more than a thousand Jews escaping the holocaust in Europe.
The Philippines is also marking the 71st anniversary of the United Nations partition plan which the Philippines supported, the only Asian nation to do so and which paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel. The 61st anniversary of the formal establishment of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Israel is also being commemorated.
During the President’s trip, Abella said that Duterte will be meeting with members of the Filipino community, and is also expected to visit “some significant spots” in the Holy Land.
In Jordan, Abella said Duterte’s visit will be an opportunity to return the visit of the late King Hussein who visited the Philippines on March 1, 1976. The late king’s visit also marks the formal establishment of the diplomatic relations between Jordan and the Philippines.
“With Jordan, we’re elevating our relationship with the Kingdom with the first ever visit of a Filipino president to Jordan on the 6th to the 8th of September 2018,” he said.
“The renewal and expansion of our relations with the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan is in pursuit of our Friends to All, Enemies to None foreign policy,” he added.