This photo taken on April 4, 2017 shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gesturing as he delivers his speech during the 120th anniversary ceremony of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio camp in Manila. / AFP / TED ALJIBE
Manila: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday embarked on a visit to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar where he is expected to thank its leaders for hosting Filipino expatriates.
It is Duterte’s first Gulf visit as a head of state.
Duterte will be in Saudi Arabia from April 10 and will also visit Bahrain and Qatar before flying back home on April 16.
“My mission is to forge deeper engagements with the Middle East,” he said, before leaving for the visit.
Duterte will also thank Gulf states for helping bring peace to Mindanao.
For more than four decades, Mindanao had been mired in a separatist conflict— first with the Moro National Liberation Front and later with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Agreements passed during the administrations of President Fidel V. Ramos and President Benigno Aquino III has calmed the issue but strife continues and the threat of extremism by the Western Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group which operates in Central Mindanao, remain.
“I will seek their support for maintaining just and lasting peace in Mandanao and also look forward to exchanging views with them on regional security,” he said.
Duterte will also discuss issues related to trade and investments, anti-narcotics, labour, energy, education and culture.
More Filipinos work in the Gulf than any other part of the world.
After the United States, the Middle East is the biggest source of remittances to the Philippines.
Filipinos abroad, particularly that in the Middle East, are among Duterte’s strongest backers.