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QNA

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ended a historic visit to Qatar yesterday amid new deals to create nearly 6,000 jobs for Filipinos back home.

The official had arrived in Qatar on Friday, and signed four agreements with the Emir when they met yesterday.

They are in the areas of culture, health, investments and technical/ vocational training, QNA reports.

QNA

Signing of Qatar-Philippines agreements.

Some 13 agreements were also signed over the weekend between private firms in the areas of health, defense and tourism, according to the Qatar Tribune.

The newspaper quoted the Philippines trade and industry secretary as saying the deals were worth more than $200 million.

Ramon Lopez added that there is also the possibility of a new investment agreement of up to $1 billion with Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

Huge crowd

On Saturday, Duterte rallied a crowd of more than 7,000 OFWs at the Lusail multipurpose hall, starting off by crooning a duet with local singer Hanna Uddin.

Balitang Q/Facebook

OFWs cheer for President Duterte during his first Qatar visit

GMA News reports that during the hour-long talk, the official reiterated his tough stance against the illegal drug trade in his country.

Duterte also reportedly again attacked former US President Barack Obama, boasting that he was the only one to have the guts to insult him.

Meanwhile he praised current President Donald Trump, also a populist leader, as a “realist” and “pragmatic thinker.”

Qatar was the last stop for Duterte, who also visited Saudi Arabia and Bahrain this week, before heading home.

‘Follow the rules’

More than 260,000 Filipinos now live in Qatar, and the majority of those who voted in the recent elections supported Duterte.

However, while many expats had been hoping the official would push for improved rights in Qatar, he did not speak much about this during his trip.

3dom/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Instead, he implored OFWs in Qatar to remember that their host country is “taking care” of them. And he urged residents to keep in mind, “There are rules to be followed. Just follow the rules.”

He also reportedly told Qatari businessmen during a meeting on Saturday:

“Qatar is a very important country for us as it protects the national interest of Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos work here. We are ready to send more workforce if required.”

Thoughts?

Wikicommons

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will make his first state visit to Qatar at the end of this week, the embassy has announced.

Duterte will arrive on Friday for a two-day trip that ends Sunday, April 16. His visit will mark the first high-level meeting between the two nations in five years.

Filipino expats will have a chance to meet him during a community event at the Lusail Sports Arena on Saturday, April 15 between 6:30pm and 8pm.

Raja Raman/Flickr

Lusail hall

However, prior registration to meet the official is required. This is because the former handball venue only holds some 6,000 people and “for security reasons,” the embassy said.

According to the Peninsula, registration can be done online here via the United Filipino Organizations in Qatar website.

Qatar support

Duterte is a controversial figure internationally, in part of remarks he has made about women, journalists, homosexuals and capital punishment.

But he has strong support in Qatar, where the majority of expats cast their overseas ballots for him.

Philippines embassy in Doha/Facebook

Philippines embassy in Doha

When he arrives, he will likely have a lot to talk about with Qatar’s four-largest expat community, behind Indians, Nepalis and Bangladeshis.

Filipinos now number more than 260,000 people in the country, in part due to Qatar’s reliance on domestic labor.

Analysts have said they expect Duterte to push for more rights for OFWs in the Gulf.

US Pacific Fleet/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Prior to his arrival in Doha, Duterte is also visiting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Other topics of interest with senior officials in Qatar will likely include foreign investment and tackling terrorism, CBN News reports.

And last year, outgoing ambassador Wilfredo Santo said that education, culture, health and tourism would also be on the agenda during the president’s visit.

Thoughts?

A Philippine Airline A330.

lkarasawa / Flickr

A Philippine Airline A330.

Starting March 26, Philippine Airline (PAL) will launch its first direct flight from Manila to Doha.

The service will operate four times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday on the A330.

PR684 will leave Manila at 1:30pm and arrive in Doha at 6pm local time. And PR685 will depart Doha at 8pm and arrive in Manila at 10am.

Wikimedia

Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Tickets range from QR885 to QR2,745 in economy, and include WiFi and meal service. A business class option could be rolled out this summer.

The moves come a year after the carrier introduced its first service to Doha, though that route currently first stops in Abu Dhabi.

PAL will continue to fly that service Doha on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Gulf Times reports.

The non-stop service will make Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport one of the few destinations connected directly to Doha by three airlines.

It also heats up competition on the route, as Qatar Airways also flies to Manila direct. So does low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air, which launched its service to Doha in 2015.

Growing community

Qatar is home to a large Filipino population, which now numbers over 200,000 people.

That’s the third largest expat group in the country, behind the local Indian and Nepali communities.

3dom/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to the Qatar Tribune, PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista said:

“The non-stop service will give us a better product to offer to some 230,000 Filipino workers in Qatar.

Aside from the convenience of this direct service, passengers can experience in-flight service with the ‘heart of the Filipino’, marked by warmth, care and hospitality.”

The newspaper added that passengers get two pieces of checked luggage as part of their tickets, and each piece must not exceed 23kg.

Thoughts?