Duterte in Qatar for last leg of Middle East trip

DOHA, Qatar (UPDATED) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Qatar on Friday, April 14 (Doha time), for the last leg of his 3-country Middle East trip that also brought him to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. 

Duterte landed in Doha at 8:50 pm on Friday (Doha time), or 1:50 am on Saturday, April 15 (Manila time), for his 3rd state visit to a Middle Eastern country.

"Mr President, welcome to Doha. We are honored to have you," a Qatari official told Duterte as soon as he exited the plane on Friday.

Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, Qatar's minister of energy and industry, and  Abdullah Bin Ali Alsaleti, Qatar's airport chief of protocol, welcomed Duterte to Doha.

In an interview with reporters Friday, Philippine Ambassador to Qatar Alan Timbayan said Duterte's visit will boost ties between Manila and Doha "to the highest" levels. 

"President Duterte is expected to further boost employment opportunities for Filipinos – workers and professionals – who are here to seek greener pastures," Timbayan said.

According to Timbayan, Duterte will meet with the emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, on Sunday, April 16. The emir is the country's head of state and head of government. 

The ambassador said the President will witness the signing of agreements "in the fields of health, culture, technical vocational education and training."

He added that another possible topic "would be the waiver of visas for diplomatic passport holders."

Duterte earlier visited Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where he signed agreements to help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and boost trade and investments in the Philippines.

He also met with OFWs in these countries. In Saudi Arabia alone, around 2,000 OFWs attended Duterte's meeting with the Filipino community on Wednesday, April 12. 

In Bahrain on Friday, some 4,000 OFWs reportedly showed up for his meeting with the Filipino community there.

In Qatar, Timbayan said around 6,000 Filipinos will attend Duterte's event with OFWs on Saturday (Doha time). – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.