The President in Israel

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The president’s visit to Israel is a story of humility, and I believe it’s something we Filipinos may want to reflect on. 

 “Ito lang ang bisita ko na (this is my only visit that) maybe I will do it again, I really do not know. But this is the first time napaluha ako na andito ako sa aking mga kababayang Pilipino (But this is the first time I turned emotional that I’m here in front of my countrymen),” a teary-eyed President Duterte said in front of Filipinos during his speech at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem. 

The president was invited to visit the country by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I believe that this opportunity to come to the Holy Land is done in perfect timing; not only does it make a mark in history, but also because it is high time that he meets with the overseas Filipinos who are working in the said country to achieve a better quality of life.

Show of humanity

A lot of Filipinos in Israel work as caregivers, and the country’s government has recognized their contribution to society. In fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has witnessed firsthand how a Filipino caregiver looked after his father and brother and attended to their needs before they respectively passed away. 

“There has been a remarkable phenomenon in Israel where thousands and thousands of families have taken heart from the support given by Filipino care workers to the elderly. I am one of those families, Mr. President,” said Netanyahu, adding that he is among the many Israelis who are “deeply moved by this show of humanity.”

The Philippines is likewise instrumental in shaping Israel’s history. Apart from opening its doors to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, the country also voted in favor of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which eventually led to the creation of Israel in 1948.

“Mr. President, we remember our friends. And that friendship has blossomed over the years, and especially over the last few years,” Netanyahu added.

Care beyond recognition

President Duterte definitely sees through the efforts of Filipino OFWs in Israel, and this is why he pushed for bilateral agreements with the Israeli government, including one that is focused on improving the conditions of Filipino caregivers working in the country. The agreement was signed by both Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello, and is expected to “knock off up to $12,000 from the cost of every caregiver,” according to Netanyahu.

“This is money that is taken away from the caregivers and the families, the Israeli families who so want their service,” the Israeli PM added. “This is an exceptional agreement and I think it heralds the kind of friendship that we are developing.”

It is also part of the president’s agenda to discuss burning issues with Netanyahu with regards to the wellbeing of Filipinos in Israel, which includes strengthening cooperation in tourism, business, agriculture, counter-terrorism and security, and law enforcement.

With these on his to-do list during his state visit, it only goes to show that President Duterte is keen in improving the quality of life of Filipinos abroad, by seeking partnerships that value their skills and efforts. These partnerships and agreements not only directly benefit OFWs, but more importantly, their families.

Only the beginning

I believe that this is only the beginning of an exciting chapter in Philippine international relations. By establishing a strong friendship with Israel, our country may be able to explore new frontiers in the areas of diplomacy, security, counter-terrorism, among others – as these are issues that likewise affect our country, both on a domestic and international scale. 

The president is likewise looking forward to send more Filipinos to Israel as he sees that life is better in the said country.

“If it (is) not really a wrong proposal, pardon me,” he added in his speech. “But if Israel would want, ipapadala ko ng lahat ng Pilipino dito kasi mas maganda ang buhay dito (I will send all Filipinos here because of better life here).”




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