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Israeli media: Duterte itinerary includes a secret 'advanced weapon and equipment' display

The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, will be landing in Israel on Sunday evening for a four-day official visit. This is the first visit by a Philippine president since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1957. Following his stay in Israel, Duterte will continue on to Jordan.
According to his official schedule, the Philippine president will be having lunch with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also meet with President Reuven Rivlin. He will participate in an event involving Filipinos working in Israel, tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum and the Old City of Jerusalem, and also pay a visit to a monument to the actions taken by the Philippines to open its borders to Jews during the Holocaust.

In addition, however, the visit includes other aspects that have not been made public, including a visit to a display of advanced weapons and equipment arranged by the Defense Ministry, and the signing of an oil exploration license that is being granted to the Israeli-owned company Ratio Petroleum.

The Israeli company was the successful bidder three years ago for an offshore oil exploration license issued through the Philippine Energy Ministry, but the exploration concession has been awaiting Duterte’s signature for the past six months, a delay caused in part by reform efforts and criticism regarding permit and taxation policies.

As a result, senior executives at Ratio Petroleum sought assistance from the Israeli Foreign Ministry to facilitate the signing during Duterte’s visit, Haaretz has learned. The Philippine media have reported that the exploration zone holds major potential.

Ratio has a 15-percent stake in Israel’s Leviathan offshore natural gas production site. Overseas, Ratio Petroleum is involved in exploration and production of oil and natural gas and has licensing rights and options in a number of locations including Guyana, Surinam, Malta and Ireland.

Duterte’s public schedule contains no mention of events related to arms transactions despite the fact that several such events are expected to be on the president’s itinerary, including the display of advanced weapons and equipment. Over the years, Israel has obscured the nature and scope of its military exports to a number of countries around the world, but websites and official Facebook pages from the Philippines have disclosed a large number of arms purchases in the past.

The Philippine embassy in Israel has also prepared a separate itinerary for a delegation of army and police retirees who are joining the president in what was described as their exposure to current developments involving Israeli defense equipment. The embassy has not provided details, however.

Since Duterte took office, relations between Israel and the Philippines have become much closer. On several occasions, the Philippines has voiced support for Netanyahu’s policies on various issues and has abstained on several controversial votes in the United Nations. In October 2017, Netanyahu initiated a telephone conversation with Duterte as part of the Israeli prime minister’s effort to garner support against a UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem. An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said at the time that the conversation had been a good one.

Israeli media: Duterte itinerary includes a secret 'advanced weapon and equipment' display Israeli media: Duterte itinerary includes a secret 'advanced weapon and equipment' display Reviewed by AsianPolicy.Press on 1:14:00 PM Rating: 5

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