The Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo said the visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to Manila will serve as a platform for the leaders to discuss matters of mutual interest, as well as ways of increasing political and economic co-operation.

In an interview to Qatar News Agency (QNA), Manalo said, "this is an opportune time to engage in meaningful conversations. We will be celebrating the 43rd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries next month in May.

"The Philippines and Qatar have enjoyed more than four decades of cordial bilateral relations. I am optimistic that the friendship between our two countries will reach new heights in the years to come," he said.

"While a long tradition of people-to-people exchanges serve as the backbone of the Philippine-Qatari relations, we also wish to increase investment and boost economic cooperation," Manalo said.

He pointed out that the Philippines government has introduced reforms that simplified investment requirements and processes. He hoped that more Qatari businesses will participate in sectors that have been previously been closed to foreign investors.

The Philippines looks forward to collaborating with Qatar in both traditional and non-traditional areas, he said, adding that "while labour relations remain to be a vital pillar, we aspire to broaden our partnership in other fields, such as renewable energy, tourism, and development of the Philippines' halal industry."

Manalo stressed that the Philippines also seeks to enhance cooperation with Qatar in regional and multilateral spaces, on issues of mutual concern.

He touched upon the role of the Filipino community in Doha in strengthening the ties between Qatar and the Philippines, noting that approximately 260,000 Filipinos consider Qatar their second home.

"We are proud of their achievements and their contributions to both our economies. Their welfare remains a top priority," he said, acknowledging Qatar's supports towards initiatives meant to ensure the well-being of overseas workers.

He added, "our countries' labour relations are premised on trust. At both the official and popular levels, shared values enable stakeholders to effectively engage with each other, guided by mutual confidence and respect."

He appreciated all efforts that help safeguard the rights of overseas Filipino workers, pointing out that his country is in close coordination with Qatar's government in this regard.

"We are hopeful that reforms across the region continue to evolve to encompass the more vulnerable sectors of the labour market. We welcome initiatives that contribute to enhancing labour mobility," he said.

Manalo hailed Qatar's mediation efforts amidst the dispute in the Middle East. "We acknowledge Doha's crucial role in working towards the cessation of hostilities, and in the continuing search for lasting peace in the region," he said, adding "Manila yearns for a Middle East where peoples who have lived in insecurity for several generations will finally be able to live together in peace and stability."

He welcomed Qatar's signing of the instrument of accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), which is a foundational document of Asean, adding Qatar's accession to TAC is a manifestation of their commitment to contribute to the maintenance of peace, security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

On relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Manalo emphasised the importance of the relations between his country and Gulf nations, saying, "approximately 2mn Filipinos consider the Gulf their home away from home. This number speaks volumes about the importance of the GCC to the Philippines."

"Amidst the ongoing economic diversification within the GCC, we reaffirm our commitment to engage cooperatively in the economic, labour, and socio-cultural sectors," he said.

Manalo concluded by stressing he is positive that "Philippines and the GCC countries can work together in mapping out ways on how our sovereign wealth funds can become more beneficial for our nations and peoples."
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