• PH secures investment deals from Middle East

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    The Philippines has secured a $650 million investment pledges from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, the three countries that President Rodrigo Duterte visited during Holy Week.

    The President’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, made the announcement in reference to the investment pledge received by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) concerning agricultural, halal hubs and tourism enterprises.

    Qatar and the Philippines signed trade agreements worth $200 million during the final leg of Duterte’s Gulf tour, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters in Doha Sunday.

    Lopez said 6,000 jobs would be created in the Philippines as a result of the 13 agreements signed between private companies at the weekend, which covered areas such as health, defense and tourism.

    “The private firms in Qatar have shown great interest in various projects (in the) Philippines,” Lopez told the Qatar Tribune newspaper.

    “There are many more opportunities where they can invest.”

    His comments came as Duterte prepared to meet senior government officials in Doha on Sunday, and less than 24 hours after the controversial former mayor addressed an adoring crowd of almost 7,000 supporters in Qatar.

    Duterte thrilled a sell-out audience by reiterating his uncompromising policy pledges on drugs — which has gained him popularity at home and notoriety in the West — and warned those in the drug trade not to test him.

    During an hour-long speech, Duterte spoke also about his pledges on clamping down on corruption and sang a duet with a local Filipino singer, Hanna Uddin.

    Some 240,000 Filipinos live in Qatar, and a large majority voted for the president in last year’s election.

    The agreements signed by the Philippines and Qatar include reinforcing cultural programs between the two countries, enforcing cooperation in the field of technical vocational education and health cooperation.

    The health cooperation will be in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

    “This MOU is actually 10 years in the making. There were lots of exchanges and a lot of legal review. It will be a cooperation on all important fields of health and looks into the support of joint activities within international health organization,” Health Secretary Pauline Ubial said in a news conference.

    “Our doctors and all health professionals can practice in Qatar, as well as Qataris can practice in the Philippines,” Ubial added.

    Pardon
    In a related development, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd said Sunday that at least two detained Filipinos in Qatar are likely to be granted pardon.

    Bello said that the Qatari government was willing to meet Philippine officials to discuss the possible grant of pardon.

    “The pardon will depend on the nature of the offense for which they were convicted, and we think two of the three cases could possibly qualify,” Bello said in a news conference.

    The Qatar Minister of Labor also made commitments to consider the repatriation of 86 Overseas Filipino Workers who ran away from their employers.

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