JERUSALEM — The governments of the Philippines and the State of Israel have signed three agreements that would strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu witnessed the signing of the agreements, including a Memorandum Of Agreement on the temporary employment of home-based Filipino caregivers, a Memorandum Of Understanding on scientific cooperation, and a Memorandum Of Intent on the collaboration on promotion of bilateral direct investment.
The signing was made before the bilateral meeting between President Duterte and Prime Minister Netanyahu at the latter’s office on Monday.
In a brief message, President Duterte thanked the Prime Minister for inviting him to visit the Jewish state.
He also expressed his gratitude for the many times the Israel government helped the Philippines, especially during the months-long siege in Marawi last year.
“Mr. Prime Minister, I can only thank you so much especially the critical help that you have extended my country when we needed it most,” he said.
“The recent trouble in the Philippines…the extent of the help that you extended was very critical in winning the war. It was a help to preserve the Republic of the Philippines and I thank you for that,” he added.
The Chief Executive also took the opportunity to personally thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for hosting almost 28,000 Filipinos in Israel.
“They have been very happy working here, taking care of the aging population of yours…citizens,” he said.
He related that the “jubilation” of the overseas Filipino workers who attended the Filipino community event on Sunday was proof of how satisfied they were with the hospitality of the Israel government and its people.
“The way that they have been received here was shown last night by their jubilation. And of course, everytime I mentioned the kindness and benevolence of Israel, you could hear a thunderclap and I am sure that [it] came from the heart,” he said.
The President then expressed hope that the warm ties between the two nations would continue, assuring his relentless support for the Israel government.
“Thank you and may we continue to be blessed with a strong relationship. I do not think that there will ever be a time when there is an irritation even between our two countries,” he said.
“We share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings. But we also share the same passion of not allowing our country to be destroyed by those who have the corrupt ideology…[those] who know nothing but to kill and destroy,” he added.
“Israel can expect any help that the Philippines can extend to your country,” he said.
The President also introduced his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Zimmerman Duterte, to the Prime Minister saying that she has Jewish roots because of her mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman.
For his part, Prime Minister Netanyahu underscored that the visit of President Duterte in Israel was historic since it was a first by a sitting Filipino leader.
“We mark that this is the first visit by a President of the Philippines in the history of Israel. It is deeply appreciated,” he said.
“We remember the exceptional role of the Philippines that received Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. We remember that the Philippines was the only Asian country that voted for the establishment of the State of Israel in the UN resolution in 1947,” he added.
“Mr. President, we remember our friends. And that friendship has blossomed over the years and especially over the last few years,” he said.
He then expressed his appreciation to Filipinos for taking care of the elderly persons in Israel. Majority of Filipinos in Israel are caregivers.
“I am one of those families, Mr. President. My late father died at the age of 102. In his later years, he received incredible care by a caregiver from the Philippines, a woman with exceptional compassion and intelligence,” the Prime Minister shared.
“She took care of my father’s every need. And when he passed away, she took care of his brother’s niece until he passed away,” he narrated.
He vowed to improve the process of deployment of caregivers to his country, saying that the “show of humanity” of Filipinos has moved him as well as many other Israelis.
He noted that the agreement on caregivers “will knock off as much as 12,000 dollars from the cost of every caregiver” seeking employment in Israel.
“This is the money that is taken away from the caregivers and their families, the Israeli families who so want their service. This is an exceptional agreement and I think heralds the kind of friendship that we are developing,” the Prime Minister said.