Philippines, Saudi Arabia mark 50th anniversary of diplomatic tie

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On June 12, the Philippines commemorates the 121st anniversary of its Independence. The theme of this year’s National Day celebrations is “Courage of the Nation, Compassion for the People” (“Tapang ng Bayan, Malasakit sa Mamamayan”).

It highlights the bravery, patriotism and collective sacrifices of the Filipino people in the struggle for the country’s independence, from the past’s colonial experience to today’s challenges to nation-building including poverty, threats to national security, and many more.

Today, the Philippines stands alongside other members of the international community of nations, proud of its heritage as the first republic in Asia and hopeful of its future as a sovereign nation.

Recent data show that the country is among the fastest growing economies in Asia, with a gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection of 6.5 percent this year and 6.6 percent in the next two years.

With increased growth in its trade and investments worldwide, fast booming tourism industry, and dramatic improvements in the peace and order situation under the current Administration, the Philippines is poised to achieve even more in its quest for even higher levels of economic growth and a bigger voice in the regional and international political arena.

The 121st Philippine Independence Day anniversary coincides with the 50 years of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which can best be described as “thriving, productive and mutually beneficial.”

Since the 70s up to today, Saudi Arabia has been a top destination for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Currently, there are an estimated 800,000-plus OFWs working in the Kingdom, contributing to the Kingdom’s socio-economic development and the Philippines’s phenomenal economic growth in recent years.

In this regard, the Philippines is grateful to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for opening new channels to safeguard the rights and welfare of foreign migrant workers, including the establishment of a call center hotline, which includes Filipino as a language in the system; the establishment of Labor Disputes and Household Violations Settlement Committees in all areas and provinces of the Kingdom; and the establishment of the Support Protection Office by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development as a means to provide protection, welfare, and support to household workers in the Kingdom, among others.

Besides being the Philippines’ top source for its oil needs, the Kingdom remains a significant economic partner of the Philippines. In 2018, the Kingdom ranked as the 17th largest trading partner of the Philippines with the latter exporting a wide range of food and agricultural products. Of course, Saudi Arabia is the gracious host to thousands of Filipino-Muslims who annually undertake their Haj pilgrimage and Umrah.

In 2017, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia further enhanced their relations through various initiatives and agreements entered into during the successful state visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Kingdom in April of that year.

Their relationship has since diversified to include other areas, including peace and security. Today, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia are active partners in the global fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

Philippines’ AmBisyon Natin 2040

and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

The Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are both guided by long-term national visions.

In the case of the Philippines, the vision is enshrined in the AmBisyon Natin 2040 — a 25-year vision for development planning for the Philippines which will guide its government toward the achievement of the vision and aspiration of a prosperous, predominantly middle class society where Filipinos enjoy a strongly rooted, comfortable, and secure life by the year 2040 or earlier.

On the other hand, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the Saudi Vision 2030 under which it envisages the Saudi economy to be less dependent on oil, with more opportunities for non-oil industries, as well as a more open policy for foreign investors and tourism that will spur growth and development in the country by 2030. The Philippines hopes for the success of the Saudi Vision 2030 and stands ready to support it anyway it can.

This year’s 121st Anniversary of Philippine independence and the golden anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia are reminders that having grand visions backed by the collective and collaborative efforts of their leaders and people will play a key role in the attainment of the two countries’ development objectives. — SG


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