THE Philippine Embassy’s possible transfer from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will be raised during President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s visit to Israel, the Jerusalem Post has reported.
Citing “diplomatic officials” in its report on Aug. 22, the newspaper said, “The Philippines was mentioned repeatedly in December as one of a handful of countries that might follow the US lead and move its embassy to Jerusalem, a rumor that was shot down by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano later that month when he said the move had not been discussed. Nevertheless, reports about a possible move have continued to surface.”
The Post also noted the Philippines was one of 35 countries which abstained when the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in December that condemned the US for the move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Sought for comment about this possible agenda when Mr. Duterte visits Israel on Sept. 2 to 5, University of the Philippines (UP) law professor Antonio G.M. La Viña said: “Yes, of course, you would expect that.”
But he noted that the Philippine government should be extra careful with this “because we have also very, very important relationships with other Arab countries. So why should we risk that for this, right?”
“On the part of Israel, probably, that is one of the things that they would want to prioritize. But the Philippines cannot prioritize that, because we have this relationship with Muslim countries as well,” he added.
Mr. Duterte is also scheduled to visit Jordan in the course of his Middle East trip.
Also sought for comment, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto C. Abella said: “I have not received any such report.”
Speaking about his trip to Israel on Monday, Mr. Duterte said a delegation of his will include retiring military and police officials.
“I would be going there with some of the retiring military and police officers. Marami kami (There are many of us). That is my gift to them for serving the country well,” Mr. Duterte told reporters on Monday morning, Aug. 27, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on the sidelines of the National Heroes Day commemoration.
Asked about the purpose of his trip, Mr. Duterte said: “I’m there because of the 28,000 Filipinos, and it’s getting hotter there. And also on the Lebanese front, there is something brewing there. And in Jordan, we have 48,000 Filipinos. That’s why I am bringing (Environment Secretary and retired general Roy A.) Cimatu to prepare for that eventuality and just in case war breaks out there.”
In a phone interview, University of Santo Tomas (UST) political science professor Marlon M. Villarin said: “The presence of the President, particularly in Jordan, is a diplomatic statement that this government is very serious when it comes to providing protection to our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are affected by the current situation in Jordan.”
“In dealing with Israel and Jordan, I think the Philippine government is very serious when it comes to its idea of expanding our military capability….It’s one way to manifest our independent foreign policy when it comes to military [cooperation with other nations],” Mr. Villarin added.
Mr. La Viña, for his part, said the Philippine government “just would like to establish ties with countries” like Israel and Jordan. — Arjay L. Balinbin