64 years ago on August 9th, the State of Israel & the Republic of the Philippines established their diplomatic relations. Our bilateral relations had been laid down by great Filipino leaders: President Manuel Quezon opened the doors of the Philippines to Jews fleeing the Nazi regime in the late 1930s, and under the presidency of Manuel Roxas, the Philippines was the only Asian country in the United Nations General Assembly to vote in favor of the creation of the State of Israel on Nov. 29, 1947. We will always be grateful for these.
The Philippines and Israel relations have always been warm and friendly. Political, Cultural, Economic, Scientific and Technological cooperation between the two countries continue to prosper. Israel was among the first countries to offer assistance during typhoon Yolanda. In the last decade, Israel has been offering agriculture on the job training for thousands of Filipinos. A significant milestone was in 2018 as President Rodrigo Duterte made a historic visit to Israel, being the first Filipino president to make an official visit. During the visit, the heads of states signed various agreements focusing on Filipino caregivers, scientific cooperation and bilateral direct investments. These are important pillars in the continuous cooperation between our nations.
One of the major achievements of the visit was the signing of the bilateral agreement on OFWs in Israel, which aims to improve and regulate the recruitment process and the rights of OFWs. Israel is thankful for the Filipino caregivers for helping the elderly and the disabled Israeli citizens, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak, and we are committed to ensuring their protection and rights. Last month, the first batch of Filipino home-based caregivers recruited under the Philippine-Israel Bilateral Labor Agreement (BLA) for the deployment of caregivers landed in Israel.
In 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, the only Israel mission around the world that expanded dramatically was the Embassy of Israel in Manila. The embassy has opened a Defense Mission, Trade and Commercial Mission and an Honorary Consulate in Mindanao based in Davao. Israel’s vision is to share military technology and counterterrorism techniques. In addition, more Israeli companies spearheading business activities in the Philippines focusing on innovation, cyber cooperation, water management and more. The expansion of the Embassy shows the importance of longstanding bilateral relations and the vision to expand them for the State of Israel.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel has granted significant assistance to the Philippines to help its fight against COVID-19. The Israeli government sent two health delegations focusing on the vaccination campaign and COVID-19 treatment. In addition, Israel turned over several donations consisting of personal protective equipment to the Department of National Defense and the Philippine National Police for use of their frontline workers, as well as education equipment to the Department of Education.
Israel was also the first country to vaccinate 30,000 OFWs, students and diplomats in Israel, free of charge. Israel will keep its cooperation with the Philippines in the joint global efforts against Covid-19 and for the restoration of the economy.
Israel, as a true friend and partner of the Philippines, looks forward for better years ahead and may we all adapt and beat the challenges COVID-19 have set for us. We are hopeful that the direct flights between and Manila & Tel Aviv will start as soon as possible and we hope to see our citizens, businesses and relations flourish in Israel & the Philippines.