MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte will embark on a visit to Israel and Jordan on Sept. 2 to 8, the first to be made by a sitting Philippine president to the two nations.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said it is about time a sitting Philippine president visits Israel, considering that the two countries established full diplomatic ties in 1957 and has a special relationship that dates back to the Second World War.
“The President has seen it fit at this stage to strengthen these ties considering that there is an increasing engagement of Filipinos in that particular area of the world,” Abella said in a Palace press briefing.
Israel views its ties with the Philippines as special as the Southeast Asian nation became home to some 1,300 Jews who escaped the Holocaust and provided a crucial vote to a United Nations resolution that led to the creation of the Jewish state.
The Philippines, under President Manuel L. Quezon, reinforced the Commonwealth government’s open-door policy to accommodate the Jews who escaped from Europe between 1935 and 1941.
In 1947, the Philippines, under the administration of President Manuel Roxas, gave the tie-breaker vote at the UN to separate Israel from Palestine.
Abella said Duterte will witness the signing of agreements on labor, science, and investment in Israel.
Israel is home to some 28,000 Filipinos, mostly working as caregivers.
Abella said a memorandum of agreement on the employment of caregivers is expected to be signed during Duterte’s visit to Israel. This will improve the deployment procedures and eliminate excessive placement fees imposed on Filipinos bound for the Jewish state, he said.
Abella is confident that Duterte’s visit to Israel will not hurt Manila’s ties with Arab countries which are hostile to the Jewish state.
“It’s important that we strike a balance. The President has proven in many ways that it is possible this kind of independent foreign policy while satisfying the demands and needs of each relations,” he said.
Duterte was supposed to visit Israel in May last year but it was canceled as the government dealt with the Marawi siege.
Duterte’s visit to Israel would come two years after he made a controversial remark where he compared himself to Adolf Hitler and said he would be happy to slaughter 3 million drug addicts like what the Nazi leader did to Jews.
The President apologized for his remarks in a synagogue.
Duterte’s visit to Jordan will also be the first by a sitting Philippine president. Abella said the President’s visit will finally reciprocate the visit of the late King Hussein to the Philippines on March 1, 1976, which also marked the formal establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Israel.
Duterte will witness the signing of agreements on labor, defense and foreign affairs in Jordan.