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Qatar sets up $1-B sovereign fund in RP

First Posted 17:48:00 12/16/2008

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MANILA, Philippines?Qatar will set up a $1 billion sovereign fund to finance infrastructure and other development projects in the Philippines, and will issue 128,000 working visas specifically for Filipino workers, Malacañang said Tuesday.

This was firmed up during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's four-day official visit to the oil-rich Middle East state, where she met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al Thani, said Trade Secretary Peter Favila, who accompanied the President.

Favila said the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has been given a list of development projects, from which to "cherry pick." He said Qatar was especially interested to help in the development efforts in Mindanao, which is home to the Philippines' Muslim minority.

Qatar will shoulder 85 percent or $850 million of the $1-billion sovereign fund, while the Philippines will account for the remaining 15 percent or $150 million, Favila said.

"That's what they have proposed to us. They will put up a $1-billion fund dedicated to the Philippines to help in the development of the Philippine economy," Favila said.

"Their particular interest is helping Muslims in Mindanao," he said.

The sovereign fund is on top of the maximum of $1 billion that Qatar Telecom is investing in San Miguel Corp's entry into the telecommunications sector.

The 128,000 working visas include allocations for the 37,000 jobs immediately available to Filipino workers in Qatar, Favila said, adding that Filipinos would be prioritized during hiring for future jobs.

The available jobs are in construction, fuelled by the "massive" infrastructure development there, the trade chief said.

"They really would need tens of thousands of workers there. There are new sites, satellite cities, on vast portions of the desert they are building highways, you name it," he said.

Arroyo returned to the country from Qatar before dawn Tuesday.

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