Duterte’s historic visit to Israel: A year after
A year has passed since the historic visit of President Duterte to the State of Israel in September 2018. Significant developments have been achieved in the fields of economy, agriculture, tourism, among others. He was the first Filipino president in office to visit our country.
Israel and the Philippines, in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Duterte, signed three bilateral agreements in Jerusalem, Israel, focusing on Filipino caregivers, scientific cooperation and bilateral direct
investments. These are additional important pillars in the continuous cooperation between our nations.
One of the major achievements of the visit was the signing of the Bilateral Labor Agreement on Overseas Filipino Workers in Israel, which will improve and regulate the recruitment process and the rights of overseas Filipino workers, and will drastically reduce placement fees.
Around 30,000 Filipinos are working in Israel, primarily as caregivers to the elderly and people with disabilities. We are thankful to them for taking good care of our beloved people.
Filipino service and hospitality paved the way for us to open for the first time the hotel and tourism industry to an initial 1,000 Filipino workers by the end of this year.
Another field of cooperation is the sharing of military technology and counterterrorism techniques. Earlier this year, the first-ever Counter-Terrorism Trainer’s Training was done between the Israeli Defense Forces and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Fort Magsaysay.
Economic relations were also boosted after President Duterte attended a business forum in Jerusalem with top Israeli companies and the Filipino business delegation. This led to Israeli companies spearheading business activities in the Philippines focusing on innovation, cybercooperation, water management and more.
In the field of energy, the Philippine National Oil Co. and Israel’s Ratio Petroleum Ltd. signed, in the presence of President Duterte, a memorandum of understanding regarding the exploration and development of new oil and gas fields in the Sulu Sea.
Agriculture is another area where we work closely together. For the last decade, we have been offering the AgroStudies
on-the-job training program that involves academic studies and hands-on experience in agriculture. Thousands of Filipino students have already benefited from this 11-month training in Israel.
Israel is known as a startup nation with one of the best innovative technologies in medicine, cybersecurity and more. You might be using Waze to navigate your route in Edsa; it’s an app invented and developed by an Israeli company.
Our tourism relations continue to flourish. In 2019, we are expecting to break the tourism record of approximately 40,000 Filipinos visiting Israel. On the other hand, thousands of Israelis are visiting Palawan, Bohol, Boracay and other beautiful places in the Philippines.
Philippine Airlines has announced its intention to launch direct flights from Manila to Tel Aviv and vice versa. This is anticipated to boost tourism and trade, while providing more comfortable means for Filipino travelers to visit Israel.
The Filipino bucket list includes visiting the Holy Land. Walang visa! You can visit Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and more! I also encourage Filipinos to explore other parts of Israel and to meet our people.
Our bilateral relations had been laid down by great Filipino leaders: President Manuel Quezon opened the doors of the Philippines to Jews fleeing the Nazi regime in the late 1930s, and under the presidency of Manuel Roxas, the Philippines was the only Asian country in the United Nations General Assembly to vote in favor of the creation of the State of Israel on Nov. 29, 1947. We will always be grateful for these.
When we look toward 2020, we see a brighter future in our bilateral relations, as enhanced after the historic visit to Israel of President Duterte.
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Rafael Harpaz is the Israeli ambassador to the Philippines.