Manila The Emir of Qatar Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani has pledged an investment fund in the Philippines at the start of his two-day state visit yesterday, sources said.
The proposed Philippines-Qatar Joint Investment Fund includes projects in agriculture, energy, Halal Food, labour, mining, petrochemicals, real estate, steel, tourism, trade and infrastructure development, a source from the Board of Investment (BOI) told Gulf News.
Of the $1 billion joint Qatar-Philippines investment fund, Qatar will invest $850 million or 85 per cent, and the Philippines the remainder, the source said.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino personally invited Shaikh Hamad to visit Manila, said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, adding it was the first time that an emir of Qatar has visited the Philippines.
His visit “affirms the advancement of political and economic ties between the Philippines and Qatar,” said del Rosario, adding that the two countries have maintained a 31-year business partnership.
Both leaders will also discuss “increasing opportunities for our Filipino workers [in Qatar],” del Rosario said. Currently 180,000 Filipinos are working Qatar and they comprise 12 per cent of the state’s 1.5 million population.
Qatar is the third-largest destination for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), the Labour Department said.
The BOI also scheduled an investment mission to Qatar from April 20 to 23, to generate business interest in the investment fund.
The signing of memoranda of agreements for prospective joint venture partnerships with businessmen from the Philippines and Qatar was also scheduled at this time. A Qatari investment mission that came to the Philippines in January began identifying these projects.
Qatar has been an influential force in the Philippines’ peace efforts with former Filipino-Muslim secessionist groups.
In 1996, Qatar, a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was one of the countries that brokered the political agreement between the Philippines government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
When Qatar was OIC chairman in 2001, it supported the Philippines’ bid for observer status at the OIC. Meanwhile, the Mindanao (southern Philippine)-based Philippine-Qatar Business Council has been established to strengthen the Philippines’ trade links with the Middle East.
By Barbara Mae Dacanay, Bureau Chief