Duterte leaves for Middle East state visits
President Rodrigo Duterte left on Monday afternoon for his first trip to Middle Eastern countries where he is expected to bring home some jailed Filipinos who were given clemency.
Duterte will be in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar until April 16 for state visits.
"Yes, they've been given the clearance. I will fly them home. When I arrive here, some of them are with me," the president said in a press conference in Davao airport before leaving for the Middle East.
He said detained Filipinos who were given clearance would be coming from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
"Those who are given the permission of clemency to whatever it was, about 5,000 of them have clearance, we'll start bringing them back," Duterte said.
Duterte, in his departure speech, said he would embark on a mission "to forge deeper and more meaningful and more positive engagements with the Middle East."
"There is much at stake in the Philippines’ relations with the Middle East: It is the global center of traditional energy resources. It is a source of investments with potential [for] much growth. It is an expanding market for Philippine key political products and services. And, it is home to the largest group of Filipinos working overseas," he said.
He said the importance of reinforcing Philippine ties with the Middle East could not be overstated.
The president will be meeting his counterparts from the three countries.
"This will be my first meeting with esteemed leaders of the States of the Gulf. I will seek their support for our efforts to bring just and lasting peace in Mindanao. I also look forward to exchanging views with them on regional security issues, promoting intercultural dialogue and the Philippines’ efforts at community building in ASEAN," he said.
Duterte said he will also meet with the Filipino communities in the three countries. Celerina Monte/DMS