DAVAO CITY, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte left Francisco Bangoy International Airport here Monday afternoon to meet his counterparts in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the State of Qatar up to April 16.
The president said he will also bring some Overseas Filipino Workers previously on death row but were already pardoned.
“I will fly them home. Pagdating ko dito, dala ko na ‘yung iba (When I return here, I’ll be with some of them),” Duterte said. “Those who are given the permission of clemency… we’ll start bringing them back,” he added.
In a press conference on Friday, April 7, Department of Foreign Affairs Asec. Hyayceelyn Quintana said there are currently 31 Filipinos on death row in Saudi Arabia and one in Bahrain. Presently, no OFWs are on death row in Qatar.
Duterte, in a prepared speech at the airport, said the purpose of his visit to the Middle East is to create “deeper, more meaningful and more positive engagements” with the region.
“There is much at stake in the Philippines’ relations with the Middle East: It is the global center of traditional energy resources. It is a source of investments with potential [for] much growth. It is an expanding market for Philippine key political products and services. And, it is home to the largest group of Filipinos working overseas,” Duterte said.
Duterte will first visit Saudi Arabia, where he will meet His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
‘It is and will be an important and valuable opportunity to reaffirm a lasting friendship and seek ways [of] further broadening cooperation, particularly in politico-security and defense, trade and investments, anti-narcotics, labor, energy, education and culture,” the president said of his visit to Saudi Arabia.
Duterte’s next stop will be in Bahrain to meet King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Duterte said he is seeking to “tap into the converging interests in order to intensify two-way trade and investments, seek greater politico-security cooperation and exchange to increase trade and commerce.”
Last on his itinerary will be Doha, in the State of Qatar, to meet with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Duterte said they will be talking about “greater politico-security cooperation, and collaboration in the field of health and culture.”
Duterte said it will also be his priority to create two-way trade and investments.
The Middle East is currently the second largest source of remittances for the country. OFWs working in these three countries remitted almost P 7.6 billion pesos in 2016. A third of that amount was sent from Saudi Arabia, which is home to 760,000 Filipinos. Meanwhile, Qatar is home to some 250,000 Filipinos, while Bahrain has 60,000.(davaotoday.com)