Abdul Hannan Magarang Tago
Nearly 500 Million US Dollars initial business investment alone from Saudi Arabia’s major companies were inked during the 2017 state visit of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to Saudi Arabia and some several millions from other Gulf countries.
The Letters of Intent (LOI) deals were signed by Secretary Ramon “Mon” Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Director General Charito “Ching” Plaza of the Philippines Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).
In my February 8, 2016 exclusive meeting with then Mayor Duterte at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, Metro Manila, he asked me to convince Saudi investors to do business in the Philippines, specifically in Mindanao, promising them to ease everything for them.
In return, I suggested that he should visit the oil-rich country once he wins the 2016 presidential election, which he indeed did in April 2017.
Such confidence and trust by Saudi friends was a result of my 25 years continuous service to the country’s media, Saudi Research and Publishing Company (SRPC) as Arab News was its first publication. It is owned mainly by King Salman sons.
While here in the Philippines for good, I was requested by Presidential Adviser on OFWs and Muslim Concerns, Secretary Abdullah “Dabs” Mama-o, to accompany him to KSA as advance party. I had to travel on my own expenses because I am not a government official.
We were able to convince at least seven Saudi top businessmen and investors to sign such deals including Saudi tycoons, Sheikh Waleed AlTuwaijri, who pledged to invest more than US$130 million, and Sheikh Abdullah Bukshan in real estate, tourism and hospitalities.
Our Saudi friends looked at the Philippines as next destination and strategic partner with its new pro-Muslims head of state.
Beside that deal, Sheikh AlTuwaijri has disclosed to Sec. Mama-o that his company is willing to develop 5-m square meter land as new City where Saudi families can spend their holidays.
He also raised three major projects of Saudi government including the pending Abdullah Interfaith and Civilization Dialogue headquarters in the Philippines, and his country’s request to open a KSA Consulate in Davao to better serve the Muslim community especially pilgrims.
To better facilitate these historical rapports, Sheikh AlTuwaijri humbly requested the then president-elect to post an Arabic-speaking envoy as his alter ego to KSA with long connection with Saudis.
The cordial three requests were conveyed to the President by his adviser Sec. Mama-o in his accomplished report ahead of the state visit to the Middle East as KSA was his first destination.
Before the end of 2017, I was called by DTI to follow up the inked LOIs through PEZA. And it was quite embarrassing to ask a nongovernmental individual to do a supposed job of a PH head of mission.
Unfortunately, the said deals that would create thousand jobs opportunities were sacrificed by a mere political and vested interest orchestrated by one with fraternal ties while he was at the helm of a strong cabinet post before he was fired.
The will of the President was simply aborted at the expenses of such strategic and economic cooperation with heavy weight Arab gulf country.
I believe that the sabotage move was tantamount to the systematic corruption that Senator Christopher “Bong” Go is referring to among others. (AHMT)