JERUSALEM — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will arrive here on Sunday, September 2, to start his four-day official visit in the Holy Land, the first ever for a Filipino sitting president.
The President, accompanied by a large business delegation and top government officials, left Manila at 2:57 p.m. and is expected to arrive at the Ben Gurion International Airport at past 7 p.m. (Israel time). Jerusalem is five hours behind Manila.
Upon his arrival, Duterte will immediately proceed to Ramada Hotel here to meet with 1,400 overseas Filipino workers. There are an estimated 28,000 Filipinos working and residing in Israel.
According to Philippine Ambassador to Israel Nathaniel Imperial, the members of the Filipino community are “very excited and ecstatic” to meet the President.
“Well the President won by a landslide in the last elections in Israel. And they are very excited. Actually I promised them that the President would eventually come when his trip was postponed last year,” he said.
Imperial said the President’s visit is “extremely important” for the OFWs as he is expected to sign a bilateral agreement with Israel to regulate the employment of workers, especially the caregivers.
Out of the 28,000 Filipinos in Israel, 24,000 of them are caregivers, according to Ambassador Imperial.
“This hopefully will ensure that the exploitative placement fees that are being charged to our workers would be substantially reduced, if not eliminated. It will be a government-to-government agreement. So private recruitment agencies will no longer be involved in the recruitment process,” he said.
Despite deployment concerns, Imperial lauded the Israel government for having one of the best labor policies and practices in the Middle East.
“Our workers here receive the highest minimum wage in all of the Middle East. And they have days off, they have the right to worship and practice their faith,” he said.
“And as you know, this is the Holy Land. It’s a special place for Filipino Christians and they’re having a very good time here and enjoying their work even though it’s a very difficult and demanding type of work–caregiving,” he added.
Additionally, agreements on science and technology and business will also be signed.
“I think the President wants to improve our economic relationship, especially in the areas of trade and investment. And we expect around 13 to 15 bilateral private sector agreements to be signed. There will be a business forum for the business delegation and the President will be keynoting this event during his visit here in Israel,” Imperial said.
He added that the two nations are also expected to ink a defense agreement.
“We are also trying to diversify our sources of supply of defense equipment. And this is important if we are to pursue an independent foreign policy. And Israel is one of many countries that are providing military equipment, especially for our counter- terrorism capability program,” he said.
During his visit here, the President will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu and President Reuven Rivlin to discuss bilateral ways to strengthen cooperations between the two nations.
“We consider it a historic visit and we hope to transform this historic relationship and this enduring friendship into a more vibrant and stronger partnership,” Imperial said.
The President is also scheduled to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center and the Open Doors monument in Rishion LeZion Holocaust Memorial Park.
The President will lay a wreath at the monument, which was built to commemorate the humanitarian assistance extended by the Philippines to Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust in the late 1930s.
“We expect the President to visit this important site, which symbolizes our strong friendship with the Israeli people. And you know it’s an important part and highlight of the visit of the President,” said Imperial.
The official delegation of the President is composed of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Labor Secretary Silvestre Belo III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, Political Adviser Francis Tolentino, DILG officer-in-charge Eduardo Año, Sen. Richard Gordon, and Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Elson Hermogino.
Duterte’s daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio will also join the President on his trip. PND