By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
The Philippines and Israel reaffirmed the 61-year-old good ties between the two countries as President Duterte met with Israeli Ambassador Rafael Harpaz in Malacañang Thursday.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Israeli Ambassador relayed his country’s condolences to the affected families of the twin bombings in Jolo, Sulu, and said that terrorism and violent extremism must be defeated.
The President in return thanked Harpaz for the expression of sympathy for the victims of the bombings in Jolo.
Harpaz also further expressed hope in forging greater Philippines-Israel cooperation in the industries of agriculture and trade. Duterte, on his part, vowed to strengthen cooperation between the two countries.
“The President likewise reaffirmed the shared values between the Philippines and Israel and renewed our country’s commitment to strengthen cooperation between the two countries across many fields,” Panelo said.
Agreement on OFWs
Meanwhile, Harpaz reported to Duterte that Israel has already ratified the agreements on opening and improving opportunities for overseas Filipinos in Israel, particularly for caregivers and those working in the hotel industry.
“Such a positive development is a direct result of President Duterte’s historic visit to Israel,” Panelo said.
Duterte made a historic visit to Israel last year. During his visit, Duterte thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for graciously hosting some 29,000 Filipinos in Israel, and for treating them humanely.
Netanyahu, during his meeting with Duterte, lauded the Filipino caregivers who are taking care of Israel’s elderly and disabled. The Israel Prime Minister also shared that he comes from an Israeli family who received the care of Filipino careworkers.
“There has been a remarkable phenomenon in Israel with thousands and thousands of families have taken heart from the support given by Filipino care workers,” he said.
Netanyahu also lauded the memorandum of agreement on Filipino caregivers in Israel that was signed during their meeting.
“I, like many, many Israeli families, am deeply moved by this show of humanity. And today we are going to sign an agreement that will knock off as much as 12,000 dollars from the cost of every caregiver,” he said.
“This is the money that is taken away from the caregivers and their families, the Israeli families who so want their service,” he added.
“This is an exceptional agreement and I think heralds the kind of friendship that we are developing,” he continued.
One of the three documents signed during the meeting of the two leaders was the Memorandum of Agreement on the Temporary Employment of Home-Based Filipino Caregivers. Signing for the Philippines was Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
There are 24,000 caregivers in Israel out of the around 29,000 Filipinos living and working in the Holy Land. According to the Philippine Embassy in Israel, Filipinos are paying expensive placement fees in order to secure a job there. The agreement is aimed at lessening, if not totally eliminating, the fees that Filipinos would have to pay.