Philippines president thanks Israel for its ‘critical help’

Rodrigo Duterte, the first Philippine head of state to visit Israel, was warmly greeted by Israeli officials and countrymen alike.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

On the first day of his four-day state visit, President Rodrigo Duterte thanked Israel on Monday for giving his country “critical help,” although he did not state in what capacity.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for the visit as well as for the Philippines’ support at the UN for the establishment of the State of Israel and its willingness to take in Jewish refugees before World War II.

Netanyahu noted three “important agreements” that will be signed during the visit – to increase scientific cooperation, encourage bilateral investments and enable more Filipino caregivers to come to Israel.

The latter is immediately practical, as it would completely cancel the fees paid to middlemen who arrange for Philippine men and women to be employed in Israel.

The agreement “will knock off as much as $12,000 from the cost of every caregiver,” Netanyahu affirmed. “This is money that is taken away from the caregivers and the families, the Israeli families who so want their service. This is an exceptional agreement, and I think it heralds the kind of friendship that we are developing.”

In a meeting with over a thousand of the 30,000 of his fellow countrymen already in Israel, Duterte praised their work conditions, telling them they are “far better here” than in other Middle Eastern countries, which he did not name. It is known, however, that in certain Arab countries, foreign workers are held in almost slave-like conditions.

Among Duterte’s 400-person delegation are eight cabinet ministers, including his defense minister, over 150 businessmen, and military and police officials. In fact, a visit to a display of advanced weapons and equipment is on the itinerary.

The Jewish state has reportedly been providing Duterte’s government with military hardware, including radar and anti-tank equipment, as well as hand weapons such as assault rifles and pistols for its police force.

Duterte is a controversial figure due in large part to his “war on drugs,” with thousands of suspected drug dealers and addicts officially acknowledged as having been killed by law enforcement since he took office in 2016 and far higher numbers cited by international human rights organizations.

On Wednesday, Duterte is scheduled to lay a wreath at Israel’s tribute to the Philippines’ rescue of Jews just prior to World War II, called the “Open Doors” Monument, which is in Rishon LeZion’s Holocaust Memorial Park.