Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, went on his first visit to the Gulf last month, spending six days in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain. In an email interview, Aaron Jed Rabena, resident fellow at the Ateneo Teehankee Center for the Rule of Law and associate fellow at the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations, explains what was on the agenda, including protections for migrant workers and the conflict in the southern Mindanao region.
WPR: How have ties been between the Philippines and the Gulf evolved in recent decades, and what have been past areas of cooperation?
Aaron Jed Rabena: Traditionally, the Middle East has been economically strategic to the Philippines for several reasons. First, the region provides vast opportunities for Filipinos looking to work abroad in both skilled and unskilled positions. There are currently about 760,000 Filipinos workers in Saudi Arabia, 250,000 in Qatar, 60,000 in Bahrain and hundreds of thousands more in Kuwait and Oman.