RIYADH: The Philippine Embassy on Tuesday said that President Rodrigo R. Duterte is expected to visit the Kingdom next year to bolster bilateral ties between the two countries.
“President Duterte is expected to meet with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman,” Charge d’Affaires Iric C. Arribas told Arab News on Tuesday.
“The Filipino community will be informed accordingly regarding the visit so that they could meet and welcome their president,” Arribas said.
He added that the embassy is currently coordinating with Saudi officials on the exact date of the visit, which will be first for Duterte since he won the presidency in May this year.
Duterte is expected to be accompanied by members of his Cabinet, including Foreign Secretary Perfecto “Jun” R. Yasay, Jr.
There are 872,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom. Of the total number, 50 percent are in the Riyadh region. The eastern and western regions have 25 percent each.
Duterte enjoys huge popularity in the Philippines as well as in other countries like Saudi Arabia where he garnered substantial votes during the elections this year.
Arribas said that Duterte’s visit is expected to ramp up collaboration with the Kingdom in various sectors such as travel and tourism, agriculture, trade and investment, and culture, in addition to the labor sector.
He noted an increasing number of Saudi tourists in the Philippines. In 2015, a total of 50,884 Saudis visited the country, up from 27,945 in 2011.
On trade, Saudi Arabia ranked 10th as largest partner of the Philippines in 2012 and that it offers bright prospects as far as Philippine exports and services are concerned.
In the cultural sector, thousands of Filipino Muslims travel to the Kingdom to perform Haj or Umrah.