By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines has pushed for intensified cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the areas of anti-terrorism and security, trade, and promotion of the welfare of Filipino workers.
President Duterte made the pitch to enhance the country’s bilateral relations with the Arab nation during his meeting with Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif, interior minister of Saudi Arabia, in Malacañang.
The visiting Saudi royal, in turn, has reportedly reaffirmed the Philippines’ importance to Saudi Arabia and agreed to push for strengthened bilateral ties.
“The President has very warm and cordial talks during the courtesy call of HRH the Prince who is also the Minister of Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement after the President’s meeting with the Saudi Prince.
“The President said there is need to expand cooperation across many fields, especially in security, trade and investment, as well as in promoting the rights, safety and well-being of Filipinos,” he added.
In the meeting, Roque said the Prince conveyed the “personal and warm wishes” of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to the President. “The Prince reaffirmed the importance of the Philippines to Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The Saudi King was also reportedly impressed with the way President Duterte handled the deadly terror siege in Marawi last year.
“The Prince conveyed the deep respect of the Saudi King for the President’s strong and decisive action that led to the liberation of Marawi from extremists and terrorists,” Roque said.
He said the Prince conveyed the “readiness” of Saudi Arabia to combat violent extremism and terrorism,” he added.
“The President thanked the Prince for the visit and reaffirmed the commitment of the Philippines to defeat and break the backbone of terrorism and violent extremism,” Roque said.
The President met the visiting Saudi prince behind closed doors in the Palace, with a few Cabinet members present. A luncheon was later hosted by the President for the Saudi Prince and his delegation.
“Over a specially prepared Filipino-inspired menu, the two discussed the strengthening of bilateral relations and issues of mutual importance, particularly in law enforcement, peace and order and security,” Roque said.
President Duterte visited Saudi Arabia last year and met King Salman on efforts to deepen bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields. Saudi Arabia is home to more than 700,000 Filipino workers.