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Duterte bringing home $60-M investments from Jordan trip

President Rodrigo Duterte. AP

AMMAN—President Rodrigo Duterte wrapped up his official visit to Jordan on Friday, a day earlier than scheduled, bringing home $60.675 million in Jordanian investments.

This was on top of the $84.9 million worth of investments pledged during his trip to Israel earlier this week.

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Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said President Duterte decided to go home early to be with his family and spare the government another day of expenses.

The President shortened the Jordan trip without having to cancel any official engagement, Roque said.

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New department mulled

In a speech at the Philippine-Jordanian business forum on Thursday, the President promised to create a department that would make it easy for foreign investors to do business in the country.

Mr. Duterte assured businessmen here that the Philippines is a good place to invest in but admitted he could not say that the country is “trouble-free.”

He pointed out that the “South going back to Indonesia and Malaysia” was where trouble could erupt, referring to Mindanao and the security problems posed by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Still, the President said most parts of the archipelago remained “relatively peaceful” where “business can thrive.”

“We need investments. We need the money to finance the huge population in terms of education, medical care, everything,” the President said, giving his audience his “solemn commitment that if you go there, it will be business with ease.”

“As a matter of fact, you do not have to travel from one place to another to get a permit or clearance wherever,” he stressed.

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The President said he would create a department “just to receive your application.”

“I will guarantee you the return of profit,” he told Jordanian businessmen. “There will be no corruption. And if you ask anything, even a toothpick, I guarantee you, you can have my audience anytime of the day or night.”

9 agreements signed

The President also witnessed the signing of nine business agreements, including seven letters of intent and two memorandums of understanding.

The agreements cover the relocation of Nafith International’s regional office to the Philippines; the setup of a manufacturing facility for Dead Sea products for export to Asian markets; the exploration of opportunities for cross-border remittances from Jordan to the Philippines and for genomic testing services for hospitals and clinics.

On Thursday, King Abdullah II declared that Jordan and the Philippines were starting a “new era” of cooperation, including a partnership in the fight against terrorism.

“I am confident that your presence here will really give us momentum into the future in so many fields, and I believe this is a new era of cooperation,” Abdullah told Mr. Duterte in a meeting at the Al Husseiniya Palace.

Abdullah said he looked forward to “an opportunity … to visit your country, not only with our government officials, but also (with) the Jordanian private sector to look at the tremendous opportunities that your country has to offer.”

On their shared concerns about terrorism, Mr. Duterte agreed with Abdullah that “it will take a lot more years to stop it.”

Jordan on Thursday donated two secondhand Cobra attack helicopters to the Philippines, which will be turned over to Manila after Filipino pilots have undergone a nine-month training on their operation.

For his part, the President offered to send troops to Jordan to help combat Islamist militants.

Key role in coalition

 

Both countries have been battling the influence of Islamic State (IS), with Jordan playing a key role in an international coalition, and the Philippines on alert after a five-month occupation of Marawi City by jihadi groups.

“If there is anything that we can do, if you are short in your army, let me know,” Mr. Duterte told his host monarch. “You need one battalion … I will send them to you. I will commit my government in the right side of history.”

Abdullah is considered an important Middle East ally of Western powers, with Jordan playing a prominent role in the US-led coalition against IS, providing military, logistical and intelligence support.

The President is scheduled to arrive in Davao City at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday after a 14-hour flight from Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport.

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