Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta (SOM) Fra’ Matthew Festing on Sunday started his seven-day official visit to the Philippines, according to Malacañang.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the visit affirms the two nations’ commitment to strengthening bilateral relations.
“Ang pagbisita ng kanyang Most Eminent Highness Festing ay inaasahang ibayong makapagpapatibay ng relasyong diplomatiko sa pagitan ng Pilipinas at ng Sovereign Order of Malta simula nang ito ay maitatag may limang dekada na ang lumilipas” (The visit of his Most Eminent Highness Festing will strengthen the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Sovereign Order of Malta since it was established 50 years ago),” Coloma told government-run dzRB radio.
SOM or the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, through its international assistance arm Malteser International, has long been helping the country in terms of healthcare, hygiene intervention, feeding programs, provision of food supplements and medical supplies, and disaster relief and rehabilitation.
Coloma said Festing will meet with President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday in Malacanang, where he will hand over a symbolic key for SOM’s donation of core shelters in Basey, Samar and Cebu.
The shelters, which are in various stages of development, are expected to be completed by end-May.
“Gagawaran siya ni Pangulong Aquino ng Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Grand Collar (Raja) award at citation, (President Aquino will confer on him the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Grand Collar (Raja) award and citation),” Coloma said.
On March 5, Festing and his delegation will visit Basey to check on SOM’s donation of 350 core shelters, he added.
Festing, an Englishman, will be the second Prince and Grand Master of the SOM to visit the Philippines, following the visit of Fra’ Angelo de Mojana di Cologna in February 1979.
According to the SOM’s official website, the Rome-based SOM “works in the field of medical and social care and humanitarian aid, in over 120 countries, supported by the diplomatic relations it currently has with 105 nations.”