The University of the Philippines Office of the President and Institute of Islamic Studies, in collaboration with the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Philippines and King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives held a public forum on Philippine-Saudi Relations on January 20, 2019, at the UP School of Statistics Auditorium. The public forum featured two distinguished scholars from King Saud University, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) respectively and Philippine academics, sharing knowledge and discussing key issues pertinent to Philippine-KSA engagements.
Dean Morados in her welcome remarks conveyed her honor at the renewed partnership with the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, citing the scholarships bestowed by the then Prince Salman to IIS students in the late 90’s. UP Vice President for Public Affairs Dr. Elena Pernia who gave the keynote speech in behalf of UP President Danilo Concepcion conveyed UP’s cognizance of Institute of Islamic Studies’mission of equipping students with knowledge and skills “… grounded on a complimenting harmony of revealed and rational knowledge and producing graduates that are contributing to nation building.” She likewise thanked the Saudi government for the IIS scholarship assistance and its recent commitment towards the construction of the new UP IIS building. She articulated UP’s interest to develop Philippine Learning Commons in countries all over the world, for OFWs to acquire new knowledge on technology and online courses. She cited the recently founded Philippine Learning Commons in Kaohsiung, Taiwan through the efforts of the UP Open University, suggesting a similar prospect at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The public forum was organized into two lecture panels: the first panel on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia initially featured Dr. Abdullah Nasser Alwelaie, Physical geography professor of the Department of Geography, King Saud University. Dr. Nasser presented overall and per sector statistics of OFWs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). He described how competent Filipinos are in the various fields of industry and how the Saudi people like OFWs for being hard working and facile learners of the Arabic language.
His lecture was followed by a presentation on the POEA Philippine Labor Management System by Deputy Administrator Miss Jocelyn Sanchez. Reactor Dr. Abdul Hussein Kashim, Chairman of the Damlag Council highlighted the 2013 labor agreement that securedthe rights and privileges of OFW in the Kingdom.
The second lecture panel focused on the Bilateral Relations between the two countries. Dr. Mohammed Abdullah Altuwijri (Chairman of King Saud University’s History Department) presented on the bilateral relations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. He mentioned the series of exchange visits between Saudi and Philippine government officials. One significant feature of our mutual relations is the joint coordination in countering the rise of violent extremism. Dr. Mohammad Abdullah’s lecture was complemented by Mr. Raymond R. Balatbat (Executive Director, Office of the Middle East and African Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs) who discussed Philippine-Saudi Bilateral Relations citing resident Duterte’s visit to the Kingdom which resulted in agreements on various economic as well as a peace and order program in the Philippines. The panel reactor former UP IIS Dean Prof. Julkipli Wadi asserted that Philippine-Saudi Relations started long before the forging of the so-called nation states when Arab missionaries brought Islam to the Philippines in the late 13th century. Nearly five hundred people from various academic, religious and government organizations attended the public forum. The forum likewise featured a film showing and a brief but noteworthy speech on the methodology of history by Dr. Fahd Bin Abdullah Al-Semmari, head of the King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives. The forum adjourned with eye-opening Arabian cultural presentations featuring a variety of musical instruments with male vocal and dances.