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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Manila: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will visit Riyadh later this week to attend the inaugural summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the GCC, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.
The Philippines is one of ASEAN’s 10 member states, whose leaders are scheduled to meet their Gulf counterparts on Oct. 20 in the Saudi capital for their first joint summit, following increasing engagements between the two groupings in recent years.
The Gulf bloc comprises Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE. This week’s summit aims to further ties between ASEAN and GCC, said the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
“The GCC Summit is primarily about the endorsement of the framework of cooperation between the ASEAN and the GCC, which is the first summit that aims to intensify and optimize the ties between the two regional organizations,” Daniel Espiritu, assistant secretary at the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, told reporters during a briefing at the presidential palace in Manila.
“It’s very important because the GCC is composed of highly-developed Arab economies, and at the same time, they are petrochemical as well as hub and logistics economies,” he said.
“They can help ASEAN in addressing energy and food security — energy security because they’re petrochemical powerhouses — but also food security because some of the countries there … are among the largest producers of fertilizers and they can fill up the slack or deficit on the ASEAN side.”
Manila will also be seeking to boost bilateral and business ties on the sidelines of the ASEAN-GCC summit, Espiritu said.
“There are also planned bilateral meetings with Saudi Arabia, as well as with Bahrain,” he said.
Marcos is scheduled to meet with officials from the Saudi Ministry of Investment, Arab businesses and also the Filipino community in Riyadh as part of his visit.
The Kingdom has long been the most popular destination for overseas Filipino workers, or OFWs, with about a third of newly hired workers who left the country in 2023 choosing Saudi Arabia.
Marcos’ visit to Riyadh this week could potentially boost Philippine-Saudi ties, said Don McLain Gill, lecturer at the department of international studies in De La Salle University.
“From large investments and trade to being the favored destination of OFWs, Saudi Arabia’s importance in Philippine foreign policy is undeniable,” he told Arab News.
“Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s role as a major West Asian power with a large economy and vast energy resources also adds more reasons for Manila to strengthen ties with Riyadh,” he said.
“As Saudi Arabia seeks to broaden its ties beyond its immediate neighbors and traditional partners, the Philippines must be willing to leverage this shift.”
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