President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Wednesday welcomed eight new ambassadors to the Philippines, hoping to forge stronger cooperation on COVID-19 response, trade and investment, defense and security, and climate change with the states they represent.
Among those who presented their credentials to President Duterte in Malacañang were the new ambassadors of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of Belgium, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Kingdom of Sweden, Israel and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
In welcoming the UK envoy Laure Beaufils, the President expressed his gratitude to the British government for its assistance in repatriating Filipino nationals from Afghanistan.
And despite the current pandemic, the two nations have worked to deepen their bilateral engagement, he said.
“We should continue to strengthen cooperation on COVID-19 response, labor, defense and security, support for Mindanao, climate change, and other issues of mutual concern,” the President stressed.
He also welcomed UK’s decision to delist the Philippines from its “Red List” ban on international travelers, which he said would facilitate greater mobility and exchanges between the two countries as the world works on establishing a new normal order.
The President also welcomed Hisham Sultan Al Zafir Al Qahtani, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, and looked forward to working with the Mideast kingdom to expand cooperation in various areas for the mutual benefit of their citizens.
“We hope to improve the bilateral trade and investment exchanges as well as the transportation and travel cooperation between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during your tenure,” he said.
He thanked the Saudi Arabian government for hosting almost a million Filipinos in the kingdom, and for the free COVID-19 vaccination offered to Filipinos there.
“I would like to thank you for your personal contributions to the success of the special mission to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he told the Saudi ambassador.
“The repatriation of the 645 distressed Filipinos in June shows the continuing partnership between our countries in upholding the welfare of OFWs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
At the same time, he conveyed his appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s pledge of support for the Philippine government’s efforts against COVID-19 and in the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
Also presenting his credentials to the President was Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium Michel Parys, who cited the celebration this year of the 75th year of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Belgium.
As a response, President Duterte said that as the two nations celebrate the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations, he expressed optimism that the two countries could deepen their bilateral engagement for the benefit of their people.
Prior to the pandemic, Belgium was the Philippines’ 25th top trading partner and 23rd export market. The President said it is crucial to revitalize their economic relations as the world works towards post-pandemic recovery.
Also welcomed by the President was United Arab Emirates new ambassador to the Philippines Mohamed Obaid Salem Alqataam Alzaabi.
In accepting his credentials, President Duterte thanked the UAE’s ambassador for his personal contributions in extending timely assistance to distressed Filipinos in the UAE in his previous capacity as director of the Foreign Nationals Department of the Foreign Ministry.
“I hope you will continue this good work as Ambassador here in our country.
The Philippines and the UAE recently celebrated 47 years of cordial bilateral ties. May the stronger bond between our peoples propel us to deeper partnership in many areas of mutual interest,” he said.
The Philippine president appreciated UAE’s hospitality towards Filipinos in the Arab country, especially during the pandemic. He also extended his gratitude to UAE’s generous donations of medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines, which the Philippines received last month.
President Duterte said he looks forward to the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Philippines and Italy, as he accepted the credentials of Marco Clemente as ambassador of the Italian Republic to the Philippines.
The Philippines, he said, wants broader economic ties with Italy in order to accelerate post-pandemic recovery. In this regard, he sought Italy’s support for the resumption of discussions on the Philippines- European Union Free Trade Agreement.
For his part, Ambassador Clemente assured the President that he will work towards the strengthening of cooperation, bilaterally and within the context of ASEAN and the United Nations.
The two countries, he said, could collaborate on defense, energy, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture, sustainable development and climate change and he assured President Duterte of Italy’s support in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in terms of vaccine donations.
In accepting the credentials of Annika Thunborg as Sweden’s ambassador to the Philippines, President Duterte thanked the Swedish government for hosting around 15,000 Filipinos and for the technical assistance for the improvement of the “Edsa Busway”.
Ambassador Thunborg, for her part, vowed to devote her efforts to enhance relations in the areas of trade and direct investment and international, political and cultural affairs.
President Duterte also welcomed Ilan Fluss as he begins his second stint in the country, this time as Israel’s new ambassador to the Philippines.
In accepting his credentials, the President said he looks forward to even deeper and broader engagement with Israel. He expressed his gratitude for Israel’s assistance of COVID-19 vaccines, medical supplies and equipment and sharing of technical expertise and best practices on pandemic response.
Ambassador Ilan Fluss, for his part, conveyed the personal greetings of President Isaac “Bougie” Herzog. He promised to further deepen the bilateral partnership between Israel and the Philippines in key areas such as innovation and technology.
Welcoming Leopoldo Lazatin as ambassador of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the Philippines, President Duterte lauded Malta’s humanitarian work in the country.
Ambassador Lazatin said Malta aims to contribute to improving the lives of Filipinos through partnership with the Philippine government on various development programs.