President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is accorded foyer honors upon his arrival at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan on September 5, 2018. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

AMMAN — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte arrived in Jordan on Wednesday, September 5, for a three-day official visit.

During his trip to the Hashemite Kingdom, the President is eyeing five key points on the agenda: 1) to strengthen both nations’ bilateral relations; 2) to improve the working conditions of the Filipino Overseas Worker in Jordan; 3) to tap business potential for Filipino and Jordanian businesspeople; 4) to enhance defense cooperation, and 5) a mutual recognition of the Standard of Training and Certification of Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers.

In an interview, Philippine Ambassador to Jordan Akmad Atlah Sakkam explained each of these five key points that the President will focus on during his historical visit to Jordan.

First, on the bilateral relations, Sakkam said that President Duterte’s marching order is for the Philippines to pursue its independent foreign policy, which is the “Philippine first diplomacy” with initiatives to avoid confrontation with other nations and, instead, to exhaust all means of diplomatic discussions.

“He wants (us to do our share) in finding a solution not just to international conflict but to regional conflict as well, a contribution of our wisdom to find peace and security with the rest of the world. So that is his marching order,” Ambassador Sakkam noted.

Second, President Duterte will sign an agreement for better working conditions for the OFWs in Jordan.

In comparison to other Arab nations, Ambassador Sakkam said, the Filipinos in Jordan have fewer predicaments, but the two countries will still improve the conditions.

“The people are good, the people are honorable people… (They treat) our workers with respect. So that is a plus factor for Jordan,” the Philippine envoy said.

“The access to Internet and cellphone is now built into our new agreement. And our domestic helpers will be allowed to cook their own food. And then (there is) religious tolerance, they are allowed to exercise their religious beliefs. Wala yan sa iba,” he added.

Moreover, the Filipino workers will have fully paid free time for their weekly free hours apart from their regular working hours.

Also, President Duterte will discuss the strategic points for the evacuation of the 48,000 Filipinos in Jordan in case a crisis happens.

Third, the Chief Executive’s trip will also explore business opportunities for the two nations.

“The visit initiates an opening for our businessmen. And for Jordan also,” Ambassador Sakkam said.

The envoy added that among the many possibilities for the Philippines is the concept of Halal food, which is not exploited by Filipino businessmen.

“It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry that our businessmen should exploit, so information must flow harmoniously,” he said.

On the other hand, the Jordanian businesses could look into the agricultural products of the Philippines such as our bananas and pineapples. The visit could open two-way trade and investments for both nations’ business sectors.

Fourth, President Duterte and King Abdullah II will discuss the enhancement of defense cooperation between their two nations, specifically on the increasing threat of terrorism that, not confined in the Arab region, is also slowly creeping into the Far East.

The two leaders share the same vision “not to allow such radicalism and extremism,” Ambassador Sakkam pointed out.

“And I heard there is a discussion for donations of helicopters, but that’s something for our leadership to pursue. Hopefully, it will materialize,” he added.

Lastly, President Duterte will push for the Kingdom of Jordan to recognize our seafarers and the Philippines as one of the greatest suppliers of seafarers in the world.

“There is a saying: Board a ship anywhere in the world and you will always find a Filipino worker… Here they have this entry point, the Gulf of Aqaba. It is very important that our certificates are recognized by the Royal Kingdom of Jordan. Very important ‘yun for our maritime issues,” Ambassador Sakkam explained.

During his visit here, the President is scheduled to meet with His Majesty King Abdullah II at Al Husseinieh Palace Courtyard. The palace visit will be followed by an official working lunch on Thursday, September 6.

The Chief Executive is also expected to attend a business forum at the Intercontinental Hotel.

On Friday, President Duterte will meet with the Filipino community at the Royal Cultural Palace.

Ambassador Sakkam said that the President, first and foremost, “wants to maintain our close ties with our people. His commitment (is) to protect, to serve, and assist all our people abroad, especially those distressed Filipino workers,” Sakkam emphasized. ###PND

Balikbayan Media Center
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