‘OFWs are essential parts of Israeli society’ — foreign minister
MANILA, Philippines — Israel Foreign Minister Eliyahu Cohen on Monday underscored the crucial role of overseas Filipino workers in their society.
Cohen made the remark during his bilateral meeting with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo in Manila.
“Israel recognizes the important role of the Filipino caregivers in Israel. OFWs are essential parts of Israeli society. We take care of their well-being while working in Israel and even after,” Cohen said in his opening statement.
According to the Israeli Embassy in Manila, there are around 30,000 OFWs in the Middle Eastern country.
‘Deepening, expanding’ economic ties
Cohen said Israel will work toward building “bridges of innovation between businessmen and women of our countries to help boost trade and economic ties, and help improve the lives of the citizens of both our countries.”
He then hailed the “deepening and expanding” economic cooperation of Israel and the Philippines.
Cohen also pointed out that trade figures between the Philippines and Israel have reached around $534 million.
“I call the two governments to try to double it by next year to $1 billion,” he challenged.
In Israel’s commitment to boost ties with the Philippines, Cohen also said they will continue assisting and sharing their knowledge on agriculture, water, innovation, and technology.
“We are specifically looking into issues such as agriculture productivity, food security, cyber security, and digitalization,” he said.
Cohen said Israel will continue inviting some 550 Filipinos annually to take part in their agriculture internship program.
He further expressed hopes to improve the Philippine-Israel defense ties.
“Israel has a lot of experience and proven systems and technologies that could assist the Philippines in maintaining peace and security,” Cohen said.
In their meeting, Cohen and Manalo also sealed a memorandum of understanding that would boost the two nations’ efforts in addressing environmental challenges.
Cohen, together with an Israeli business delegation, arrived in Manila on Sunday for a two-day official visit.
Aside from his bilateral meeting with Manalo, Cohen also paid a courtesy call to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the Malacañan Palace.
Cohen is the first Israeli foreign minister to visit the Philippines in 56 years.
The Israeli Embassy said his trip to the country sends a “strong political and economic message” as a follow-up to then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s historic visit to Israel in September 2018.
Duterte was the first Philippine leader to visit the Middle Eastern country since Israel and the Philippines established ties in 1957.