President Marcos apologizes to OFWs for canceling UAE trip

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
President Marcos apologizes to OFWs for canceling UAE trip
Photo shows the Philippine delegation to the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference visiting the Filipino community gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Nov. 30. Inset shows Presi-dent Marcos, in a video message, apologizing for not being able to join them while extending his gratitude for the contributions of Filipino workers in the UAE.

DUBAI — Despite President Marcos’ last-minute cancellation of his trip to the United Arab Emirates, the gathering with the Filipino community here pushed through on Thursday night and was filled with fun and performances.

The usual festive mood during the FilCom gathering was felt as Filipinos gamely engaged with the event’s host, Philippine-based rapper MC Leandro, and sang along with performers in their rendition of classic original Pilipino music and Christmas songs.

Marcos, in a video message, apologized to Filipinos for not being able to see them personally, saying he has to attend to the case of the 17 Philippine nationals who were among those held hostage by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea on Nov. 19.

The President noted that the happiest part of his foreign visits is his meetings with fellow Filipinos.

“I feel very bad that I have – I will not be able to do it with you this time,” the Chief Executive told Filipinos gathered at the Dubai World Trade Center.

Marcos announced on X his decision to cancel his trip here for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP28, just a few hours before his scheduled departure on Thursday morning.

“You know there are things that need to be attended to immediately…17 of our fellow Filipinos have been taken hostage and we are doing everything possible to bring them home,” the President said in Filipino.

“That’s why we formed a delegation to go to them and talk to those who are holding them so that they can go home. So, perhaps you understand, that we put that first because we have to ensure of course the security of our countrymen,” he added.

He also reported on the Philippine government’s success to remove all Filipinos out of war-torn Gaza.

Marcos has promised to meet the Filipinos in the UAE at some other time.

“But I promise you, when there is another opportunity we will do it again and I will make it up to you,” he said.

Marcos was represented by Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo Jr., who read his speech.

Other government officials present at the meeting with the Filipino community were Science Secretary Renato Solidum, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, Department of Migrant Workers officer-in-charge Hans Leo Cacdac, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Charles Jose, Ambassador to the UAE Alfonso Ferdinand Ver and Philippine consul general in Dubai Renato Dueñas.

In his speech, Ver also read a letter given by Maria Suarto, a Grade 11 Filipino in Dubai, to the President, where she expressed her admiration for Marcos’ leadership.

“Please don’t give up on your dreams in making the Philippines great. We believe and support you,” Ver said, quoting Suarto.

According to the envoy, the kid’s mother, who was among those who attended the event, was asked by her daughter to give the letter to Marcos.

Government data shows there are almost one million Filipinos currently living and working in the UAE. — Bella Cariaso

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