MANILA -- The Philippines is scheduled to sign at least eight agreements with Israel and Jordan when President Rodrigo R. Duterte visits both countries from Sept. 2 to 8, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official said Thursday.
In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang, DFA Undersecretary Ernesto Abella described Duterte’s visits to Israel and Jordan as “historic” since it will be the first by a sitting Philippine president to both countries.
Duterte will be visiting Israel and Jordan upon the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, respectively. He will be in Israel from Sept. 2 to 5 and in Jordan from Sept. 6 to 8.
Abella said both visits will be a huge leap in the Philippines’ bilateral partnerships with both countries after decades of diplomatic relations.
“Strengthening ties with these nations will promote economic growth, create new employment opportunities and enhance security,” Abella said.
“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 added.
The following agreements are expected to be signed between the Philippines and Israel:
• Labor: Memorandum of agreement on the employment of Filipino caregivers
• Science: Memorandum of understanding on scientific cooperation
• Investment: Memorandum of understanding between the Board of Investments and Invest in Israel -- a one-stop shop for potential investors
In the future, Abella said the government expects improvements in deployment procedures and the elimination of excessive placement fees imposed on Filipino workers bound for Israel.
He said the government also expects progress resulting from cooperation in the areas of science and agriculture, enhanced two-way trade and investments.
The following agreements are expected to be signed between the Philippines and Jordan:
• Labor: Memorandum on the employment of domestic workers and also a memorandum of understanding on labor cooperation to improve working conditions of Filipino domestic workers in Jordan.
• Defense: Memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation to upgrade the country’s defense capabilities.
• Foreign affairs: Political consultations
• Trade and investment: Investment agreement with Jordan Investment Commission and expect enhancement of two-way trade and investments.
• A mutual recognition of Standard of Training and Certification of Watchkeepers (STCW) for Seafarers
PRRD aware of sensitivities
The DFA official, meanwhile, expressed confidence that Duterte’s visit to Israel will not affect Philippine relations with countries that do not recognize or maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
“We are aware of certain sensitivities but I believe we have reached our stage of maturity in our relations that we understand each one of them -- host countries who we consider partners –t hey’re aware also that we are in relationship with other countries like Israel,” Abella said.
“It is important that we strike a balance. I believe the President has proven in many, many ways again and again that it is possible to have this kind of independent foreign policy while satisfying the demands and needs of each particular relation,” he added.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano reiterated the administration's foreign policy to be "friends to all, enemy to none."
"The questions are there any repercussions by just visiting? I say we’re all mature enough to know that we can be friends even with countries that have issues with each other. Do we have to exercise some sensitivities? Of course," he told reporters in a recent interview.
Cayetano said the government acknowledges there are sensitivities to be aware of, but underscored the importance of bolstering its bilateral relationship with all nations who wants a closer relationship with the Philippines.
"We live in a modern and mature world. Israel knows that we’re very close to many Arab countries, we’re very close to Malaysia and Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, which has an Islamic majority. In the same manner that these countries know that we are friends with Israel," he said.
Data from the DFA showed that there are an estimated 28,300 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Israel as of 2017 and an estimated 40,000 OFWs in Jordan as of 2017. (With reports from Joyce Rocamora-PNA)