MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday welcomed the new envoys from eight countries and expressed intent to further bolster the Philippines’ bilateral ties with them.
Duterte received the credentials of ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Belgium, United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain and Northern Island, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Italy, Sweden, Israel, and Malta at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Wednesday afternoon.
Duterte told Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the Philippines Hisham Sultan Al Zafir Al Qahtani that he is looking forward to expanding Manila’s cooperation with Riyadh in “various areas of mutual benefit [to the two countries’] peoples.”
“Over the past five decades, our bilateral relations have remained strong and resilient. Saudi Arabia is one of [our] oldest friends in the Middle East. Let us build on our past successes and elevate our relations to even greater heights,” Duterte said
Duterte expressed hope to improve the bilateral trade and investment exchanges, as well as the transportation and travel cooperation between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.
He likewise thanked the Saudi Arabian Government for being hospitable to nearly a million Filipinos in the host country offering free coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination to them.
He also reaffirmed the Philippines’ support for Saudi’s Labor Reform Initiative.
When Belgium’s Ambassador to the Philippines Michel Parys presented his credentials, Duterte said he is optimistic that the Joint Plan of Action would be inked to expand the two countries’ cooperative ties.
“Before the pandemic, Belgium was the Philippines’ 25th top trading partner and 23rd export market. It is crucial that we revitalize our economic relations as this will be much needed for post-pandemic recovery,” Duterte said.
Duterte said the Philippines is also counting on Belgium’s support for the resumption of talks on the Philippines-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement and the Philippines’ coordinatorship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-EU relations.
During the presentation of credentials of Laure Beaufils, UK Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Duterte expressed intent to further strengthen the two countries’ cooperation on Covid-19 response, labor, defense and security, support for Mindanao, climate change, and other issues of mutual concern.
“The pandemic has not prevented us from deepening our bilateral engagement. This is most welcome,” Duterte said. “I welcome the UK’s decision to delist the Philippines from its ‘Red List’ ban on international travelers. This will facilitate greater mobility and exchanges between our countries as the world works on establishing a new normal order as we recover from the pandemic.”
Duterte also hoped that the “stronger bond” between the Philippines and the UAE would result in “deeper partnership in many areas of mutual interest.”
He likewise expressed appreciation to UAE for donating Covid-19 medical supplies and vaccines to the Philippines.
“I understand your government is looking at ramping up cooperation in the Philippines in addressing the pandemic. This is partnership that works,” Duterte told UAE Ambassador to the Philippines Mohamed Obaid Salem Alqataam Alzaabi.
Duterte also conveyed to Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Marco Clemente his intent to further enhance the cooperative and economic ties between the two countries.
When Duterte received the credentials of Sweden’s Ambassador to the Philippines Annika Thunborg, Duterte expressed hope to improve Manila’s trade and investment cooperation with Stockholm.
Duterte also reaffirmed the Philippines’ “friendly and cooperative” relations with Israel during the presentation of Ambassador Ilan Fluss’ credentials.
“We look forward to even better, broader engagement in Israel in the years ahead, particularly in defense, labor and tourism,” he said.
During the presentation of credentials of Malta’s Ambassador to the Philippines Leopoldo Lazatin, Duterte said Valletta’s humanitarian aid to the Philippines, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, is “laudable.” (PNA)