MANILA: An Islamic studies and research center in Saudi Arabia is “opening its doors” to Filipinos seeking to pursue scholarly work as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries.
In a statement on Saturday, Malacanang said that the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS) had “conveyed its readiness” for the initiative to Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Special Envoy Robert Borje during his recent visit to the Kingdom.
In a meeting with KFCRIS Secretary-General Turki Bin Mohammed Al-Shuwaier, Borje underscored the importance of enhancing academic and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
Al-Shuwaier said he “hopes to forge more tie-ups with institutions of higher learning in the Philippines, including those in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM),” the statement said.
Borje visited the KFCRIS to “pay respect to the Kingdom’s Islamic heritage, values and identity” and honor the “enduring ties” between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, it added.
The visit by President Rodrigo Duterte’s special envoy was an “important opportunity for Saudi Arabia to work with the Philippines,” the statement quoted Al-Shuwaier as saying, while Borje expressed gratitude to the Saudi official for “opening opportunities to Filipino students seeking to study at the center.”
“Enhanced collaboration on education, research and culture between the two countries is part of President Duterte’s thrust for forging multi-dimensional relations with Saudi Arabia,” Borje said.
In comments to Arab News on Sunday, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh told Arab News that the KFCRIS was “accepting visiting fellows who would like to research topics that are relevant to its thrusts of the center, and is encouraging Filipinos to join its network of academic researchers.”
“The embassy is also working to establish linkages between the center and some universities in the Philippines, particularly in the Bangsamoro, to promote cooperation between Philippine and Saudi academic institutions, among others,” it added.
On when the collaboration between the KFRIC and the Philippines would begin, Filipino ambassador Adnan Alonto told Arab News on Sunday that it was “subject to further talks with the center.”
“The embassy will follow through. We will discuss any future visits,” he added.
Borje’s visit to the KFCRIS was part of a string of activities during his five-day official trip to Saudi Arabia, which ended on June 24 and included a meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajjraf.
During their talks, Borje expressed hope for greater cooperation with GCC and member states, especially as the Philippines rebounded from the pandemic.
He said he was optimistic that a “much deeper collaboration with GCC and member states would help further spur and sustain lasting development in Mindanao particularly in BARMM,” the Malacanang statement said, adding that the Philippines had “instituted reforms to make it a preferred investment destination.”
Borje explained that GCC members could play the role of “vital partners” as the BARMM proceeds with governance and growth.
Noting that economic development was essential to address long-standing social issues such as peace and security in the southern Philippines, Borje said such support was “vital to realize the development potentials of BARMM.”
Al-Hajjraf said that he would be “happy to explore greater GCC cooperation with the Philippines,” including the establishment of a formal coordinating mechanism for trade and investments and economic partnership,” the Malacanang statement said.
The two officials also stressed the importance of continuing cooperation to uphold migrant workers’ rights and combat terrorism and violent extremism.
The GCC is a regional organization comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Established in 1981, the group’s objectives are to enhance coordination, integration and inter-connection among its members.