Emir makes Qatar’s first-ever state visit to the Philippines

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani made a stop-over in the Philippines yesterday afternoon, making it the first-ever official visit by an emir of Qatar to the Southeast Asian republic.

Similar to his India trip, the emir signed a number of bilateral agreements with his Philippine counterpart, President Benigno Aquino III. The two countries agreed to cooperate on issues of tourism, legal affairs, agricultural and fisheries, and investments by state-owned Qatar Holding.

An agreement was also made to establishment a joint business council between the Philippine & Qatari chambers of commerce, with the aim of carrying out “more systematically business promotional activities in trade, investment, technology transfer, services and other industrial sectors.”

Qatar News Agency reports the emir departed the same eve, after being awarded the highest honor in the land, and dinner. But again, no public mention of any movement on improving labor rights for citizens of the Philippines working here. 

An estimated 175,000 Filipinos work in Qatar, roughly 10 percent of the country’s population. Ahead of the emir’s trip, Philippine politician Walden Bello called for a labor pact to be signed:

“[Aquino] should ask the Emir to sign a bilateral labor agreement that would safeguard the interests and welfare of our OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers), especially domestic workers.”

Last year the Philippines had said it was considering banning its citizens from domestic labor in Qatar due to concerns over workers’ safety, but ultimately did not add it to its black list.

Credit: Photo of Emir receiving Order of Lakandula medal courtesy of Qatar News Agency

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