Duterte offers peace, rich resources, no corruption to Qatari investors
The Philippines, despite its Moro and communist insurgencies, is basically a peaceful country that is rich in natural resources both on land and at sea. And the current administration has been is dead set on wiping out government corruption and crime, especially the trade in illegal drugs.
That’s the pitch that President Rodrigo Duterte made to potential Qatari investors in the Philippines in a speech he made at the Philippine-Qatar Business Forum held on Saturday in Doha, which is the last stop in his Holy Week visit to three Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Present at the forum were members of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce Inc. (QCCI) led by Chairman Sheikh Khalifa Bin Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani and Qatari business and government executives. Duterte was accompanied by his entourage, including Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
In his speech, aired live by the ABS-CBN News Channel, Duterte reassured his audience that the Philippines was really peaceful, saying: “We do not have problems with our rebellions now.”
As to the Moro rebellion, he said: “There are a lot of Muslims in my Cabinet. We are trying to work out something now. And I hope that Lord would be most gracious for us, the Most Merciful One would grant us peace. And we hope to succeed in our peace talks. We are ready to reconfigure the land. We are ready to concede what was lost from them. And the only thing that I ask from the Moro people is that we did not know that you were all victims of imperialism.“
He referred to Spain and the United States, both former colonizers of the Philippines.
He added, however, that it would take some time to come with ways on how to correct the “historical injustice” that the Muslims in Mindanao.
Moving on to natural resources, Duterte said: “The Philippines is an agricultural country. We know that we can offer so many things from the bounties of the earth. We have mining. We have everything.”
The president then dwelled a bit on sea resources, announcing that he had ordered military to occupy 10 still uninhabited islands in the West Philippine Sea to show that Philippines was claiming ownership.
“Everybody is grabbing every land there in the South China Sea,” he said. “Now if we do not act fast, we will end up with nothing.”
He also revealed that he had asked that Benham Rise, on the east side of Luzon, be renamed as the Philippine Ridge.
“I announced to all, including America, that this is ours,” he said.
“So, if you go into business, the Philippines is big enough to accommodate any kind of vegetation,“ he added.
But the Philippines, he said, lost large chunks of forest, mostly to non-Filipino lumber companies – “maurauding colonizers who still think they’re still the big boss of the world.”
Shifting to his drive against corruption, he said fired several government workers, including some in his Cabinet, for being implicated in anomalous transaction. But he did not give any names.
Then he made a strong pledge to investors.
“We will honor contracts. We will honor our obligations,” he said. “That is in the Constitution itself –that there shall be no impairment of the obligation of contracts. So, in sof ar as trade is concerned, what is signed, and I agree with you, will be done. Even if we lose in the transaction, we will honor what we have promised.”
Towards the end of his speech, he noted that it was in the national interest of the Philippines to forge closer ties with Middle Eastern countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain because the people in these countries had been helping Filipino workers boost the Philippines’ gross national product through their remittances
He added that “the kind people in Qatar” had been partly responsbile for the education of Filipino children.
At this point, Duterte repeated the same pledge he made to the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain: That, if they should need it, his administration would wilingly give them military assistance in times of trouble because it would be in the interest of the Philippines to see their countries remain stable, considering that there were at least two million Filipino workers in the Middle East.
The president is scheduled to stay in Doha until Easter Sunday, when he flies back to Davao City, his hometown.
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