Historic trip: Duterte to visit Israel in September

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President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivers his departure statement at the Ninoy International Airport before leaving for the Republic of Korea where he is scheduled for a three-day on June 3, 2018. ACE MORANDANTE/PCOO

By Camille A. Aguinaldo

President Rodrigo is set to visit Israel from September 2 to 5 after accepting the invitation of the country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday, Aug. 13.

In a statement, the DFA said this was the first time a Philippine President visited Israel since diplomatic ties were established between the two countries 61 years ago in 1957.

A business delegation will also join the official visit and will attend a business forum where Mr. Duterte is designated as keynote speaker. Several agreements are expected to be signed during the visit.

“The 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,” the DFA said.

The President will also hold discussions on expanding cooperation in labor, tourism, trade, agriculture, counterterrorism, and security, and law enforcement with Mr. Netanyahu.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will also meet with Mr. Duterte “to discuss development cooperation and the close historical and people-to-people ties between the two countries.”

Mr. Duterte will also visit the Filipino community in the Middle Eastern country.

The DFA’s announcement came after a human rights activists group asked the Israeli President not to welcome Mr. Duterte in the country because of the latter’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

“In light of the serious crimes for which Duterte is responsible, we believe that his visit to the presidential residency will disgrace President Rivlin and the institution of the presidency, and that the visit should not take place, in spite of the fact that it is intended to promote arms deals and UN (United Nations) votes [in Israel’s favor],” the group’s letter stated addressed to Mr. Rivlin.