OFWs give Duterte ‘rockstar’ welcome in Israel

President Rodrigo R. Duterte interacts with the Filipinos based in Israel as he met with them at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem on September 2, 2018. (King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo)

JERUSALEM, Israel—Close to 2,500 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Israel gave President Rodrigo Duterte a “rockstar” welcome at the Ramada Hotel on Sunday night.

Duterte, who arrived here on a four-day visit, went directly to meet with the OFWs from the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and members of the Cabinet and the delegation.

The President was emotional for the sounding welcome of the OFWs, who were chanting his name upon entering the venue.

“This is the first time napaluha ako na nandito ako sa aking mga kababayang Pilipino (This is the first time I am teary eyed that I’m here with my Filipino countrymen),” he added.

Philippine Ambassador to Israel Nathaniel Imperial had told the President the OFWs, who came from Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, were happy after a year of waiting for Duterte, the first Philippine president to visit the Holy Land.

He said 75 percent of the OFWs in Israel voted for him during the 2016 presidential elections.

Aside from the arrival of the President, Imperial said the OFWs are happy that they will finally see the government to government agreement on recruitment of Filipinos, as this will put an end to the high and illegal collection of placement fees. The signing of the agreement was witnessed by Duterte and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Monday.

According to Imperial, there are 24,000 caregivers in Israel. He said these OFWs are a big help to the Israeli government in taking care of the elderlies.

He said the OFWs serve as ambassadors of goodwill and bridge between the two countries.

“Malaking tulong sa bansang Israel ang pagharap sa kanilang tumatandang populasyon. Magaan ang loob ng Israeli sa mga Pilipino na nagsisilbing tulay sa pagitan ang dalawang bansa (It is a big help to the State of Israel for their old population. The Filipinos serve as bridge between the two countries),” he said in his welcome message to the President.

In his speech, Duterte expressed his gratitude to the Israeli government and Netanyahu for giving Filipino workers good working conditions.

He said the working conditions of the Filipinos in Israel are far better compared to other countries, especially in the Middle East.

The President vowed to also discuss with Netanyahu how to manage the increasing population of Filipino workers in Israel.

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