DAVAO CITY – The Embassy of the State of Israel in the Philippines opened its consular office for Mindanao in Davao City on Tuesday, which would “deepen and widen” the bilateral relationship between the two economies.
During a virtual press conference, Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz said the opening of the consulate in this city would open up more opportunities to explore more opportunities of collaboration in the areas of economic, commercial, innovation, agriculture, and tourism as opportunities in Mindanao are “enormous.”
He said the role of the consulate here was to assist the private sector to conduct business, open doors to identify opportunities, and sign agreement to promote trade.
Mindanao has drawn the attention of several Israeli businessmen after the visit of President Duterte in 2018, according to Harpaz. He was the first sitting Philippine leader to visit Israel.
“The visit of President Duterte was the trigger that brought Philippines to the attention of the private sector. There is a lot of interest when it comes to doing business in the Philippines,” he said.
He added that Mindanao has a huge potential for tourism, noting an increasing number of Israeli tourists to Siargao and Camiguin, the popular beach destinations of the island.
Both nations provide visa-free access to its citizens for 90 days.
He said both nations have been discussing to open a direct flight between Israel and Philippines before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak happened.
Last year, Harpaz said 35,000 Filipino tourists visited Israel.
“I remember, my visit to Mindanao, I came with a delegation of 23 Israeli travel agents tour and operators because we saw the great potential that existed in there,” he said.
Harpaz added that Mindanao also presented an opportunity for collaboration with Israel in developing the island’s agriculture sector through the innovative agricultural technology developed by Israelis, having introduced the drip irrigation technology to local farmers.
Jorge N. Marquez, honorary consul for Mindanao, said he hopes that Israeli businessmen would visit the island and consider pouring in investments through joint ventures with their Mindanawon counterparts.
“Since we are the food basket of the country, vast areas of Mindanao hopefully will be developed,” he added.
He added that a company in General Santos City managed to increase its production of cattle through the technology introduced to it by the Israeli innovator.
“An Israeli consultant was embedded in that facility and it grew by leaps and bounds over a decade. Now, we know that they are a household name in the our supermarkets. That’s one example of a successful investiture of Israeli technology in the area of ranch and feedlot fattening livestock,” he said.