Israeli envoy ends 'fruitful' stint in PH

Published June 27, 2021, 1:38 AM

by Roy Mabasa

The expansion of the Embassy of Israel in the Philippines and the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries highlighted the “fruitful” diplomatic stint of outgoing Israeli Ambassador Rafael Harpaz in Manila.

Outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz (left) with President Duterte during his presentation of credentials 2018 in Malacañang. (Embassy of Israel)

Harpaz, who ended his nearly three years posting in Manila last week, was conferred with the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Datu (Grand Cross), Silver Distinction, by President Duterte for his significant contributions to the enhancement of PH-Israel relations.

He started his post as the Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines in August 2018 and immediately conducted his first big mission – to escort President Duterte during the latter’s historic visit to Israel in the same month. That visit brought significant developments in the bilateral cooperation between Manila and Tel-Aviv, specifically in the areas of the economy, agriculture, and tourism, among others.

In a farewell meeting in Malacañang on June 16, 2021, President Duterte particularly noted the outgoing diplomat’s key role in ensuring humane and orderly treatment of the overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Israel and the implementation of bilateral agreements on the temporary employment of Filipino home-based caregivers and workers in the hotel sector.

The President also lauded Harpaz’s notable accomplishments in the strengthened relations between Israel and the Philippines in the areas of defense, business and innovation, agriculture, and labor migration.

“I’m ending my term as the Israeli ambassador in this beautiful country with the bilateral relations between Israel and the Philippines stronger,” Harpaz said.

Amid the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the Embassy of Israel was able to inaugurate an Honorary Consulate in Davao City and opened its Defense Attaché and Economic and Commercial Mission offices in Manila respectively.

“The embassy is expanding, which is an indication of the demand for cooperation and established relations between our countries,” Harpaz noted.

Harpaz likewise played a key role in building connections between government organizations, businesses and chambers, religious organizations, non-profit organizations, and many more, which paved more opportunities for Israel to see the incentives of the Philippines, and for the Philippines to be more aware of what Israel can offer.

In support of the country’s continuing fight against the pandemic, Harpaz spearheaded Israel’s donation of medical supplies, testing kits, and educational equipment while a medical team from Israel arrived in the Philippines to share lessons and best practices in the vaccination program and deployment.