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Qatar seeks stronger political and economic ties with the Philippines.

Qatari Ambassador to Manila Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Malki said on Saturday that his country wants to expand its political and economic ties with the Philippine government.

“The State of Qatar and the Republic of the Philippines established diplomatic ties 40 years ago this year, in the year 2021. In his speech on the 143rd Qatar National Day, he said, “The State of Qatar values its bilateral relations with the Philippines and aims to develop its strategic relationship in the fields of politics and economy.”

Al-Malki pointed out that Qatar was the first government in the Middle East to implement labor reforms, including the historic removal of the Kafala system, which helped thousands of Filipino workers.

He claims that the new efforts have made it easier to transfer workers between employers and have established a minimum wage to protect migrant workers, particularly overseas Filipinos (OFWs).

“Many countries have praised it as a ‘great step,’ echoing the State’s resolve to provide migrant workers more freedom and safety while also giving businesses more options,” he said.

“These reforms set a precedent for other countries in the area to follow.” Many countries around the world and international organizations have complimented them.”

Most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) governments use the Kafala or sponsorship system, which legally binds a foreign worker’s immigration status to their employer or sponsor for the duration of their contract, often leading to modern-slavery circumstances.

In Qatar, at least 242,000 Filipinos live and work. More than 200 Filipino businesses operate in Qatar, specializing in a variety of industries.

“The State of Qatar has long respected the responsibilities performed by Filipino workers and their contributions to Qatar’s growth, based on the spirit of values of fairness and equality.” Despite the pandemic, Al-Malki stated, “the State of Qatar is committed to ensuring public safety and health for everybody.”

He also expressed Doha’s sustained support for the Philippine government’s response to the pandemic.

It donated approximately 50,000 vaccination doses worth PHP22.47 million last month.

Qatar Airways was the only airline that remained functioning during the lockdown, assisting the country’s huge return efforts, he noted.

In other areas, Al-Malki stated that he hopes to restore trade relations between the two countries through the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which will connect Qatari businesspeople with their counterparts in the Philippines.

“(T)he State of Qatar is constantly exerting intensive efforts to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries, particularly under the administration of His Excellency President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, where opportunities remain favorable to advance trade and investment, among other areas, including energy, health, education, and culture, and concluded agreements, as well as (the) activation of joint memorandums of understanding for bilateral cooperation,” he said.

The envoy stated that the two countries’ four decades of diplomatic relations are a monument to their “strong friendship” over the years.

“This also demonstrates great optimism for the future and a determined commitment to move forward jointly to a significant milestone in the two countries’ relations,” he said.

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