PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Tuesday, January 17, 2022, that the strong presence of Filipino workers in the Middle East is an advantage for the country to get investments from Arab states.

Marcos was asked during the question-and-answer session of the open forum at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland how he sees possible engagement with Gulf countries, which now consider Southeast Asia as a new location for investments.

Marcos said the Philippines has a very good foundation with regard to the relationship with countries in the Middle East because of the huge concentration of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) there.

“The workforce is still a workforce, still exists. It is up to us as leaders, I think, to be very careful how we direct the development of the economy because it’s not business as usual. The pandemic changed everything,” the President said.

“So specific to the Middle Eastern countries, we have very strong relations actually with the Middle Eastern countries…Because in the talks that we’ve had with some of the leaders from the Middle East, the discussion always begins with the overseas Filipino workers,” he added.

Marcos said any major capital intensive investment is welcome and will be of help to the Philippines as the country tries to grow its way out of the debt it has incurred.

He said trade also always comes into play especially with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) members’ very expansive and aggressive spending plan for the next few years.

He said it has been part of the discussion with Arab nations especially amid the Philippines’ plan of establishing a sovereign wealth fund.

“Some of the examples that we’re looking at are the ones in the Middle East because they have been the ones that have been most successful,” Marcos said.

“The connections are there — we just don’t have — put it in that area. But I’m sure that any opportunities that we will be given… have to take full advantage of,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)