Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives in Bahrain on April 12, 2017.
PHOTO BY PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS
MANAMA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte started his state visit in Bahrain on Thursday (April 13) in a bid to enhance economic and political ties with the Gulf states.
Duterte arrived in Bahrain on Wednesday, making the first visit of a Filipino leader in Bahrain after eight years. Duterte first arrived in Saudi Arabia as part of his three-country swing to the Middle East. He will be in Qatar next.
Duterte was expected to have a private lunch hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Ali Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa as well as Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso Ver and other embassy officials at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, will be hosting an official welcome ceremony for Duterte at the Sakhir Palace in the evening.
This will be followed by a bilateral meeting, with the two leaders expected to witness the signing of five agreements including a business investment deal.
An official dinner will also be hosted in honor of the visiting head of state.
On Friday, the President is scheduled to meet with His Royal Highness Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Deputy King, Crown Prince of Bahrain at the Bahrain International Circuit.
He will also meet with the Bahrain business leaders at the Capital Club, Harbour Tower.
The President’s visit will be capped with his regular meet and greet with the Filipino community, which will be held at the Khalifa Sports City.
Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso Ver said the five agreements expected to be signed are aimed at expanding relations and promote deeper cooperation with Manama.
The deals include an establishment of the High Joint Commission, which will be the forum and the mechanism where the entire range of our relationships and other relationships between Bahrain and the Philippines will be discussed.
There will also be an amendment to the double taxation agreement and air services agreement.
The leaders are also expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines and the Diplomatic Institute of the Bahrain Foreign Ministry.
“In addition to that, there’s a private agreement, business investment agreement between a company in Bahrain and a company in the Philippines,” Ver said.
Ver said since the establishment of relations between Bahrain and the Philippines in 1978, the two countries have been striving hard to elevate ties in terms of trade and investment, economic, and employment.
“This (trip) will also signal the renewal of our already close ties with Bahrain and hopefully establish even elevated to greater heights especially now as we would like to position the Philippines as Bahrain and the regions gateway to Asean and Asia. At the same time, Bahrain as a gateway for Philippines into Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia and the greater GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council),” he said.
Duterte is also slated to meet with the Capital Club of Bahrain, a private business and social club composed of top CEOs and businessmen in Bahrain.
“They will listen to a presentation from our economic team on possible investments, mutual opportunities for economic exchanges, trade and investment, even tourism and the President will grace that event and hopefully meet also the eminent businessmen here in Bahrain,” said Ver.
Duterte will also meet with the Filipino community at the Khalifa Sports Stadium where thousands of overseas Filipino workers are expected to attend.
Ver said there are around 60,000 Filipinos working and living in Bahrain. He said while there are reported cases of abuses against Filipino workers here, the numbers remain low and most workers are treated very well.
“They are just so anxious and excited to hear direct from him his programs, his plans for the workers here, for their welfare, for their protection, and of course, what they look forward to in the Philippines under his administration,” he said.
‘Duterte is doing a good job’
In an interview with several members of the Filipino community in Bahrain, they expressed optimism and support for the ten-month old administration of Duterte.
“I am so happy that he is elected as the President of the Philippines and I’m so proud of him, of what he is doing right now,” said Felma Taylor, a Filipino entrepreneur in Bahrain.
“That is a very broad topic if you will talk about corruption. So I think he is doing a good job for that. And the politics, I am not really good in talking about politics but I’m proud of what he is doing,” she added.
Overseas Filipino workers Rowena Mariano Al Musawi and Cristalyn Pastrana also lauded the President for the reforms he has implemented particularly his crack down on red tape that led to the improvement of processing of documents in the Immigration.
Leslie Arlen Garduque, who owns an advertising company in Manama, also commended the President for being a humble and compassionate leader.
“He’s strict, he’s firm, but he cares. We feel that he cares… Not comparing with any other governments but he just believes that he will do his best to lead the country and the government itself,” she said. PND
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