Duterte: Israel, Jordan visits  to boost OFW welfare
“Certainly, the welfare and well-being of Filipinos overseas received full attention in discussions during the twin visits. I am pleased to report that the working and living conditions of our countrymen in Israel and Jordan are expected to improve even further,” the President said upon arrival before noon yesterday at the Davao International Airport.

Duterte: Israel, Jordan visits to boost OFW welfare

Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2018 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY  , Philippines  —  President Duterte expects the condition of the nearly 100,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to improve further after his recent official visit to both countries. 

“Certainly, the welfare and well-being of Filipinos overseas received full attention in discussions during the twin visits. I am pleased to report that the working and living conditions of our countrymen in Israel and Jordan are expected to improve even further,” the President said upon arrival before noon yesterday at the Davao International Airport.

He described the results of his visit to Israel and Jordan as successful and that these were worth the effort.

The President cited the signing of an agreement to address the issue of exorbitant placement fees before a Filipino caregiver can be deployed to Israel. The fee reportedly costs an OFW between $8,000 to $12,000. 

By any measure, he stressed, the agreement shows the commitment of both governments to uphold the interests of Filipino workers.

In Jordan, Duterte said two labor agreements were forged to enhance the standards of protection for Filipinos employed as household service workers as well as regulate labor deployment, exchanges and communication and further studies on labor.

He also cited a number of government-to-government and business-to-business agreements that were concluded during the twin visit.

“Investments generated are valued at over $140 million and expected to generate over 1,200 new jobs.  This, we believe, is only the beginning,” he said.

“I am glad to be back after my official visits to the State of Israel and Jordan. I am pleased to renew the Philippines’ friendship with two important countries in a region of crucial significance to our nation,” Duterte added.

He revealed that in his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they identified ways to broaden cooperation to combat terrorism and transnational crimes, enhance security and defense, intensify two-way trade and investment and improve people-to-people exchanges.

In his separate meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, they discussed the need to improve technical cooperation, particularly in capacity and capability building. 

Both Netanyahu and Rivlin, he added, recognized the strength and depth of our meaningful shared history and the common values that bind our nations and peoples.   

As for his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Duterte said this paved the way for the identification of areas for concrete collaboration to address terrorism and extreme violence. Together with King Abdullah’s Cabinet, the President and his accompanying officials discussed ways to expand cooperation in two-way trade and investment, human resource development, interfaith dialogue and tourism and other areas of governance.

Duterte vowed to launch trade and other similar missions to the two countries to give greater impetus to the agreements.

“As I have repeatedly said, your government will continue to do its part to ensure that the rights of our nationals working abroad are protected, enhanced and upheld. With these landmark visits, the Philippines continues to write a new chapter of enhanced bilateral partnerships based on mutual respect, sovereign equality, shared interests and common values,” he said. 

“Allow me again to express my gratitude to Israel and Jordan for making these historic visits possible and for continuing to work closely with the Philippine government in pursuing greater peace, progress and prosperity for all. As we reaffirm the Philippines’ position in maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the region and pursue our independent foreign policy, we are showing that the Philippines is, indeed, a friend to all and an enemy to no one,” Duterte added. 

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte lauded Duterte yesterday for “calibrating further Philippine foreign policy in spreading the message of global peace and unity” in his trips to Israel and Jordan.

Meanwhile, Duterte ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to fix the problems of undocumented Filipino workers in Amman as part of his promise to improve the plight of Filipinos in Jordan and the Middle East, adding that this was among the topics discussed during his meeting with King Abdullah II last Thursday. 

“We had a lengthy discussion about you, all of you. We talked about the undocumented Filipinos here,” the President said during his meeting with the Filipino community on Friday. “I will try to find a solution, there are a lot of them, the undocumented Filipinos. That’s why their children have not returned home. So I hope to work on it right away.”

There are about 48,000 OFWs in Jordan. The government has been repatriating stranded and undocumented Filipino workers from Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. 

Duterte said his administration is negotiating with other countries to improve the working conditions of OFWs and that Philippine officials have requested that these workers be allowed to cook their food, given internet access and keep their passports. But he also reminded Filipino workers to follow the laws of their host countries. 

He praised King Abdullah before the Filipino community, describing him as a “very good guy” and “a man of his word.”

“He is sincere. So I have nothing but praises for him. He has a human soul. He is one of the rare persons I’ve seen that walks the talk. You can see the human spirit in his words,” Duterte said.

The President, who brought along with him several military personnel as a reward for their service in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and for retaking Marawi City from terrorists, also urged the OFWs to ignore the claims of human rights advocates, who he labeled as bugok (dumb), as he assailed Sen. Leila de Lima who remains in detention on illegal drug charges.

“Now, she’s considered internationally as a prisoner of conscience…the one who testified against her was her partner on the video. Did you see it? What is she really? Prisoner of conscience? Prisoner of libog (lust)?” he asked, referring to the lawmaker’s alleged illicit relationship with an employee and their reported sex video.

Duterte said he would not mind going to jail for his advocacies against illegal drugs and criminality. – With Alexis Romero, Jess Diaz

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