MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte received on Friday credentials of several ambassadors virtually, a first for the Philippine leader as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted face-to-face ceremonies.
Duterte received the credentials of new envoys of Palestine, New Zealand, Canada, Iran, and Vietnam via teleconferencing, Malacañang said.
"The presentation of credentials ceremony was held virtually for the first time under the 'new normal' ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic," the Palace said in a statement.
The Philippine leader, according to the Palace, also affirmed Manila's ties with the said nations particularly in areas of mutual interest.
The Palace said Duterte hailed Vietnam as an "important friend and neighbor" when he received the credentials of Ambassador Hoang Huy Chung.
"We count on Vietnam's continued support for our advocacy for the rule of law, peaceful resolution of disputes, and keeping the global commons- particularly in our region's maritime space- free and open," Malacañang quoted Duterte as saying.
Both the Philippines and Vietnam have conflicting claims with China over the resource-rich South China Sea.
He, meanwhile, told Palestinian Ambassador Saleh Asad Saleh Fhied Mohammad that the Philippines hopes to see "fruitful" engagements with the state after it decided to reopen its embassy in Manila.
New Zealand Ambassador Peter Francis Tavita Kell, on the other hand, was informed by Duterte of Manila's interest in joint geothermal energy development, and cooperation on defense and security.
In accepting the credentials of Canadian Ambassador James Peter MacArthur, Malacañang said Duterte hailed Ottawa as "an old friend and important development partner" and expressed hopes of cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 and other areas of mutual interest.
Duterte also expressed appreciation for Iran's pardon of an imprisoned Filipino in accepting the credentials of its envoy Alireza Tootoonchian.
Duterte said he hopes to forge ties with Iran "particularly in science and technology and people-to-people exchanges."
Outgoing Indian Ambassador Jaideep Mazumdar on Friday also paid a farewell call to President Duterte via telephone, the Palace said.
The President, according to Malacañang, commended the departing envoy's "exemplary service" and thanked the latter for helping Filipino liver transplant patients in India.
Last week, Duterte had a 25-minute phone call with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where the latter assured the Philippines of unimpeded supply of medicine and pharmaceutical products needed in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just last year, he received Indian President Ram Nath Kovind during a state visit to the Philippines.