By Roy Mabasa
President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the State of Israel from Sept. 2 to 5, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
First by a Philippine President since diplomatic ties were established between the two countries in 1957, Duterte’s historic visit will highlight the enduring friendship between Filipinos and Israelis, which began when President Manuel L. Quezon opened the doors of the Philippines as a sanctuary to an estimated 1,300 Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Holocaust.
In a statement, the foreign affairs office said Duterte and Netanyahu are expected to discuss common concerns and ways of expanding cooperation in the areas of labor, tourism, trade, agriculture, counterterrorism, and security and law enforcement.
Duterte will also meet with the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin to discuss development cooperation and the close historical and people-to-people ties between the two countries.
Several agreements are expected to be signed during the visit.
A big business delegation will join the visit and participate in a business forum to be keynoted by Duterte.
Last week, Israeli Ambassador to Manila Effie Ben Matityau expressed optimism that the Duterte visit will provide an opportunity to raise the possibility of opening a direct flight between Manila and Tel Aviv and pave the way for an increase in tourism exchange.
Last year, about 23,500 Filipinos traveled to Israel, a huge 61 percent increase from merely 14,600 in 2016.