THE PHILIPPINE Eagle Center in Davao City was one of the tourist destinations visited by Israeli Ambassador Ilan Flus (3rd from right) during a trip in late-November, aimed at boosting cooperation with the Philippines in tourism and other sectors. — DEP’T OF TOURISM-DAVAO REGION

ISRAELI Ambassador Ilan Fluss recently visited Davao City, the first stop for his goal to boost the tourism partnership with the Philippines as direct flights between Manila and Tel Aviv are planned for launch by next year.    

He said he is hopeful of restoring the Filipino arrivals in 2019 of over 20,000 through the opening of the route that will be served by Philippine Airlines (PAL).   

“You (Filipinos) don’t need a visa to go to Israel… There were more than 20,000 Filipinos in Israel in 2019, and we are hoping to get those numbers next year,” he said in an interview with the Davao media.  

In April, PAL announced that it was eyeing Manila-Tel Aviv non-stop flights twice a week, supposedly beginning October.  

Mr. Fluss also met with government and private sector leaders of the Davao tourism sector for possible initiatives to help revive the local industry. 

He visited some of the city’s popular destinations, including the Philippine Eagle Center and Malagos Garden Resort.   

While Israel has again temporarily closed its borders following the discovery of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the envoy said tourism will eventually have to be resumed.   

“If I think about it, also in Israel, I think the most affected sector is tourism… I think the tourism industry is an important sector,” he said.  

“At the end of the day, it’s up to the government to decide how to operate and allow foreign travels and foreign visitors,” he added.  

Making the trip outside the Philippine capital, he said, “is important to understand the challenges like poverty, security, the challenges and issues that the country has to deal with.”   

“This is my main reason of visit here to interact, to speak to people, to learn and see which way we can enhance the relationship between Israel and the Philippines.” 

Technology is another area of cooperation that Mr. Fluss discussed with Davao stakeholders.  

“This is something that Israel presented to the world, as you know in Israel we have innovations and technology, a lot of research and development. Israel is known for innovation and my mission in the Philippines is to create partnership and links with the Philippines in the area of technology,” he said. 

He stopped by Davao City’s Central 911 and its adjacent facility, the Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC), which links different agencies for emergency and disaster response.  

“After the pandemic, we realized how important technology can be in all sectors from working and studying from home, telemedicine, ICT (information and communication technology), so many aspects that you need technology and we have to use them smartly. Israel has a lot of technologies to offer,” he said. — Maya M. Padillo