MANAMA, BAHRAIN - The Philippines and Bahrain on Thursday signed four agreements covering wide-ranging aspects of bilateral relations between the two sides, among the highlights of President Rodrigo Duterte's state visit here.
Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, members of the royal family, and Bahrain government officials, welcomed Duterte and his delegation at the Al Sakhir Palace on Thursday night.
Bahrain, the second stop of Duterte's Middle East tour, is host to 60,000 Filipino workers. The President was in Saudi Arabia earlier this week, where he secured US$470 million in investment pledges that are expected to create 16,000 jobs.
During the welcome reception, Duterte and Hamad witnessed the signing of four bilateral agreements between Bahrain and the Philippines, all seen to boost ties between the two sides.
Details of the agreements have yet to be released.
The first paves the way for the creation of a High Joint Commission between the two countries. The commission will serve as a platform for enhanced cooperation covering the entire range of bilateral ties between the Philippines and Bahrain, Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso Ferdinand Ver told ABS-CBN Middle East Bureau.
“Kasi right now we have bilateral political consultations between the [Bahrain] Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Department of Foreign Affairs. But under the High Joint Commission, it will be the platform or pag-uusapan na natin the entire range of our relations: labor, agriculture, culture," Ver said.
The commission would enable the two sides to meet periodically.
The second bilateral pact amends an existing air services agreement to upgrade its safety provisions.
“Marami tayong air services agreement, but we need to update it periodically. In this issue, what we updated is the safety aspect of it. We upgraded it to the latest conditions on safety,” stated Ver.
The third agreement also improves on the existing agreement on the avoidance of double-taxation, Ver said.
“Meron na tayong [agreement sa] double taxation. Inamend ito on the provision of being more transparent in sharing information. Kaya kung ang one side, alam natin kung meron kailangang habulin,” pointed out Ver.
The fourth bilateral agreement meanwhile provides for exchanges between the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines and the Diplomatic Institute of Bahrain, which serve as the training ground for diplomats.
“This will enhance the exchange of information and training of diplomats between Bahrain and the Philippines,” stated Ver.
In addition to the four pacts, Ver disclosed a private sector agreement under which Bahrain's Nader & Ebrahim Sons of Hassan Company W.L.L. will invest US$250 million to expand operations in Davao and General Santos City.
The envoy said the firm's representative Ebrahim Al Ameer is married to a Filipina.
The Bahraini holding company is keen to develop a 10,000-hectare Mindanao property into a plantation for bananas, pineapples, pulses, lentils, and monggo, Ver said.
“It’s part of the food security rin, 'yung na pro-produce napupunta rito (sa Bahrain). But the pineapples and bananas are for the global market,” Ver said.
President Duterte’s visit to Bahrain has been fruitful, the envoy said.
“Very compact, very short but very substantive and very well. Nakita ng Presidente kung paano purihin at respetuhin ng mga taga-Bahrain ang mga Pilipino rito. Itinuturing nila na hindi mga nagtratrabaho lamang kundi miyembro ng kanilang pamilya,” he cited.
The President is expected to meet the Filipino community in Bahrain on Friday at 6:00 p.m. (11 p.m. Manila time) at the Khalifa Sports City Complex in Isa town. He will fly to Qatar on Friday evening, his last stop before returning to the Philippines on Sunday.