Embassy move to Jerusalem rejected as Philippine president set for Israel visit

Claims that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem when he visits Israel in September have been rejected. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2018
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Embassy move to Jerusalem rejected as Philippine president set for Israel visit

  • Duterte will begin a four-day state visit to Israel on Sept. 2
  • The Philippines leader will also visit Jordan from Sept. 6-8 following an invitation by King Abdullah

MANILA: Claims that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem when he visits Israel in September have been rejected by the Philippines Foreign Affairs Department.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella told a press conference in Malacanang on Thursday that discussions on the embassy’s future are “definitely not on the agenda.”
Duterte will begin a four-day state visit to Israel on Sept. 2 at the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Philippines leader will also visit Jordan from Sept. 6-8 following an invitation by King Abdullah. Both visits will be a first by a sitting Philippine president.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said earlier that the firebrand leader’s trip to Israel “could be controversial.”
But Abella, reiterating the Duterte government’s stance that the Philippines is “a friend to all and enemy to none,” expressed confidence that the president’s trip will not affect the country’s relations with nations that fail to recognize Israel as a state.
Nevertheless, the government is “aware of certain sensitivities,” he said.
“We have multilateral relations and, as we pointed out, we are friends to all and enemies to none. This should not serve as an obstacle with our bilateral relationships with each of these nations,” Abella said.
“There are certain sensitivities that we are aware of considering we have other partners in the Middle East area ... But I believe we have reached a stage of maturity in our relations that they understand ... that we’re in relationship with other nations such as Israel. So, it is important that we strike a balance,” he said.
“I believe the president has proven in many ways that it is possible to have this kind of independent foreign policy while satisfying the demands and needs of each particular relation,” Abella said.
In a recent interview, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said: “We live in a modern and mature world. Israel knows that we’re very close to many Arab countries, we’re very close to Malaysia and Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, which has an Islamic majority. Similarly, these countries also know that we are friends with Israel.
“Are there any repercussions by just visiting? I say we’re all mature enough to know that we can be friends even with countries that have issues with each other. What is important is that we strengthen our bilateral relationship with all the countries in the world that want closer relationship with us.”
Asked if the issue of moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem will be discussed during the president’s trip, Abella replied: “It’s not a topic of discussion.”
The visit will strengthen ties, and enhance economic cooperation and sharing of expertise, he said.
Duterte will hold separate meetings with Netanyahu and Israel President Reuven Rivlin.
Abella said agreements are expected to be signed between the Philippines and Israel on the employment of Filipino caregivers, scientific cooperation and investment.
The government is seeking improvements in deployment procedures and the elimination of excessive placement fees on Filipino workers bound for Israel, he said.
This year marks the 81st anniversary of the “open door” policy of the Philippines under then President Manuel Quezon, who offered shelter to more than a thousand Jews escaping the Holocaust in Europe, and the 61st anniversary of formal bilateral ties between the Philippines and Israel.
Duterte is expected to discuss broadening cooperation in key areas with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Abella said that the visits will be a huge leap in the Philippines bilateral partnerships.
“Strengthening ties with these nations will promote economic growth, create new employment opportunities and enhance security,” he said.
An estimated 28,300 Filipinos now work in Israel, with 40,000 employed in Jordan.


Survivors: Up to 117 migrants missing in capsizing off Libya

Updated 3 min 39 sec ago
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Survivors: Up to 117 migrants missing in capsizing off Libya

  • The migrants came mainly from west Africa
  • The Italian navy said it had alerted Libyan authorities who coordinated rescue operations

MILAN: A rescue official says survivors have told rescuers that up to 117 migrants might have died when a rubber dinghy capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya.
Flavio Di Giacomo of International Organization for Migration says three survivors were plucked to safety by an Italian navy helicopter on Friday, and they say 120 were aboard when the dinghy left Libya.

He said the people came mainly from west Africa, adding: “Ten women including a pregnant girl were aboard and two children, one of whom was only two months old.”
The navy says its airplane launched life rafts after it spotted the sinking dinghy Friday with about 20 people aboard. It wasn't immediately clear if some migrants had already fallen off.
The Italian Coast Guard says Libya asked a nearby cargo ship to search for survivors, but no one was found.
The Italian news agency ANSA quoted Libyan authorities as saying a dispatched Libyan coast guard boat turned back after mechanical problems.
According to the IOM, 2,297 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean last year, out of a total of 116,959 people who reached Europe by sea.
Arrivals in the first 16 days of 2019 totalled 4,449, almost all by sea, compared with 2,964 in the same period of 2018.
“As long as European ports will remain open ... sea-traffickers will continue to do business and kill people,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in a Facebook post late on Friday.
Since Italy’s populist government came to power in June, Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant League, has closed Italian ports to humanitarian vessels.