PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. is expected to promote the newly established sovereign wealth fund and discuss protections for overseas Filipino workers (OFWS) during his visit to Saudi Arabia for the inaugural summit between Southeast Asian and Gulf leaders.
Mr. Marcos, who will fly to Riyadh on Oct. 19, is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with the Saudi government and businesses, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel R. Espiritu said at a Palace briefing on Monday.
“Of course, part of the discussion could be the presentation of the Maharlika Fund to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its businesses, the protection of our nationals abroad especially in terms of labor reforms being proposed for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Arab assistance to develop the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” he said.
The investment fund has been provided seed capital by state-owned banks and the central bank.
Mr. Espiritu said Mr. Marcos is also expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Bahrain to discuss the 40th year of the two countries’ diplomatic relationship.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will hold their first-ever summit on Oct. 20, over a decade after the first ministerial meetings between the two organizations in Bahrain in 2009.
“It’s very important because the GCC is composed of highly developed Arab economies, and at the same time, they are petrochemical powerhouses, as well as hub and logistics economies,” Mr. Espiritu said. “Now, they can help ASEAN in addressing energy and food security.”
He noted that Qatar is one of the world’s largest producers of fertilizer. “They can fill up the slack or the deficit on the ASEAN side.”
Mr. Espiritu said the Gulf countries could also help ASEAN nations with supply chain issues “since most of these hub economies are advanced in terms of operations of supply chains and ports and shipping and connectivity.”
He said dealings with Gulf countries could “indirectly” stabilize fuel prices “because the basic root of the high energy prices are shortages and instability in the region.”
“If the two regional organizations can cooperate on that… we can assure ASEAN of continued and consistent volume of supply throughout the year,” he added.
The meeting with the Gulf countries coincides with the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group in control of the Gaza strip, which has made the region a flashpoint once more after an apparent warming of relations between Israel and moderate Gulf governments.
Mr. Marcos has condemned the Hamas attacks on southern Israel, defending Israel’s right to self-defense.
Mr. Espiritu said, “current developments in the Middle East” are expected to be raised in the ASEAN-GCC Summit, but “these countries are not exactly directly involved in the conflict, so probably the discussion will dwell on generalities.”
Mr. Marcos’ visit to Saudi Arabia will be his ninth foreign trip this year, and the 15th since he assumed office in June 2022.
He has visited China, Switzerland, Japan, the US, the UK, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore this year.
He is set to fly to the US again in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting, and to the United Arab Emirates in December for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Mr. Marcos spent over P392.3 million last year on his foreign trips. His office is seeking P1.408 billion to fund foreign travel next year. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza