AN overseas Filipino workers group urged President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday to appoint a Philippine ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“President Duterte [has been] in office for almost four months and he already named some of the Philippine envoys to other countries and international bodies. We are urging him to name our ambassador to KSA,” said John Monterona, convenor of the United Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (U-OFW).
There has been no Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia since the resignation of former ambassador Ezzadin Tago in June 2016. The highest ranking official at the Philippine embassy is charges de’ affairs Iric Arribas.
Monterona said Philippine and Saudi relations is one of the country’s most important bilateral ties and a permanent envoy must have the necessary expertise and solid experience to concretize the government’s policy to preserve and enhance national security, promote economic security, and protect the rights and promotion of the welfare and interest of Filipinos overseas.
“As far as our relation with the Saudi government is concerned, there are plenty of opportunities in the economic and labor fronts that have yet to be tapped. There are also tough challenges such as the protection and promotion of OFWs rights and welfare that previous PH ambassadors faced difficulties and remains to be the main concerns of OFW advocacy groups in Saudi Arabia,” Monterona opined.
Monitoring the security issues, not just in Saudi Arabia but in the entire Middle East, is also a tough job of the envoy in Saudi Arabia noting the volatile peace and order situation in some of the countries in the Middle East.
According to Monterona, it’s quite interesting to know who will be Duterte’s top envoy to KSA because the Saudi kingdom is aligned and with the United States.
Duterte, during his public speeches while abroad and in the country, indicated that his administration will pursue an “independent foreign policy”—that is no longer subservient to its former colonial master.
There are at least 900,000 OFWs legally working and living in Saudi Arabia, the top destination of OFWs, while a conservative estimate of 30,000 are irregular/undocumented.