Duterte, Saudi prince vow cooperation vs terrorism

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte had a "very warm and cordial" dialogue with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Minister of Interior, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif Al Saud, as they both expressed readiness for cooperation to fight violent extremism and terrorism.

The commitment of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia was made after Prince Abdulaziz paid a visit on Duterte at the Malacañan Palace on the afternoon of Monday, March 19.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the Saudi prince expressed the "deep respect" of Saudi King Salman for Duterte's "strong and decisive action" that led to the liberation of Marawi City, which was occupied for five months in 2017 by local fighters inspired by the Islamic State (IS) terrorists.

"The prince conveyed the readiness of (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to combat violent extremism and terrorism," Roque said in a statement.

"The President thanked the prince for the visit and reaffirmed the commitment of the Philippines to defeat and break the backbone of terrorism and violent extremism," he added.

The reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts are now underway in Marawi City.

During Prince Abdulaziz' visit to the Philippines, he also conveyed the "personal and warm wishes of the His Majesty and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to the President," Roque said.

The Palace official added that the Saudi Prince reaffirmed the importance of the Philippines to Saudi Arabia.

On the part of Duterte, he sought improved ties when it comes to security, and trade and investment.

"The President said there is need to expand cooperation across many fields, especially in security, trade and investment, as well as in promoting the rights, safety and well-being of Filipinos," Roque said.

Duterte also hosted a luncheon in honor of the Saudi prince, after the courtesy call. Roque said the President prepared a "Filipino-inspired" menu for the prince.

"Over a specially prepared Filipino inspired menu, the two discussed the strengthening bilateral relations and issues mutual importance, particularly in law enforcement, peace and order and security," Roque said.

Duterte and Prince Abdulaziz met amid the Philippine government's decision to prevent Filipinos from seeking jobs in Kuwait, following rampant cases of employers' maltreatment and abuse among overseas Filipinos workers in the Arab nation.

The Department of Labor and Employment is also studying the possibility to expand the coverage of total deployment ban of Filipino workers to other countries in the Middle East, where many OFWs also experience inhumane treatment. (SunStar Philippines)
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