RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 11 – First Secretary and Philippine Consul-General to Saudi Arabia Iric C. Arribas hopes that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s state visit to the kingdom would enhance further the relations between Manila and Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia is the first leg of President Duterte’s first foreign trip to the Middle East and is the home and destination of work of the largest overseas Filipinos in the region.
“When you talk about relationship between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, at the moment it’s still basically more on labor. So talagang nangunguna yung proteksyon ng welfare ng overseas Filipino workers dito sa Saudi Arabia. Pero higit dyan dapat magkaroon din tayo ng mas magandang relasyon sa larangan ng ekonomiya,” Arribas said.
Speaking before the Philippine media delegation at the Philippine embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, Arribas said the official function of the President will start on April 11, with a meeting with King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
The President’s centerpiece program, the campaign against illegal drugs, is one of the points that may be discussed in his meeting with the Saudi monarch.
The Philippines hopes to get the cooperation of Saudi Arabia to combat the drug scourge, particularly in intelligence information sharing and capacity building.
A number of Filipinos are jailed in the kingdom for drug-related cases.
Related to this, Arribas underscored that it is important to respect the legal system of the host country.
On the issue of Filipino workers, Consul-General Arribas mentioned that one of at least two agreements that would be signed during the President’s three-day state visit is an agreement between the Philippine Department of labor and Employment (DOLE) and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development.
Arribas also explained the amnesty for undocumented foreign workers declared by the Saudi government last March 29 is an opportunity for Filipinos with problems in their papers to come clean and clear their government work permits.
“For this amnesty 2017 we are hoping that all of them will avail but we expect around 5,000 to avail, more or less. We are urging undocumented Filipinos here to avail of the amnesty, dahil magiging mas mahusay ang kanilang buhay kung maayos ang papel nila.”
“Ang amnesty naman binibigyan sila ng pagkakataon na umuwi sa Pilipinas at makabalik din rito sa Saudi Arabia kung ninanais nila pero meron ng papel may visa nang maayos,” he said.
The President is likewise expected to meet members of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry where Filipino business leaders would meet their Arab counterparts to explore trade and investment opportunities.
“So yung trade and investment importante ultimately ang magbe-benefit dito ay yung mga Filipino na nasa Pilipinas by way of job generation. Pero maliban dun magkakaroon din tayong ibang kooperasyon sa larangan ng security, combating transnational crimes. Mga ganyang bagay. Nakikita naman natin ang sitwasyon sa mundo. May mga terorismo. So sa panahon ngayon kelangan makipag-ugnayan sa mga bansa sa Middle East dahil sila rin ay biktima ng terorismo. Ganyang klase ng mga bagay ang magiging benefits ng pagbisita ng presidente dito,” he said.
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Maharlika is a Fil-Am YouTube personality and a political commentator.