MANILA: Iraq is seeking a reboot in relations with the Philippines after a lull of 10 years, its head of mission has told Arab News, as Baghdad eyes possible cooperation in agriculture, oil, health and tourism.
Formal relations between Iraq and the Philippines were established in 1975 with the opening of the Iraqi embassy in Manila. Five years later, the Philippines opened its mission in Baghdad, but in the early 2000s both countries closed their respective diplomatic offices.
The embassies were later reopened, and in 2012 the two countries signed an agreement to boost diplomatic exchanges and develop bilateral relations. But the last time the Iraq-Philippines Joint Committee Meeting was held was in 2013.
Iraq is hoping to persuade tourists from the Philippines to explore the country known as the ‘cradle of civilization,’ as it was the site of the Mesopotamians who developed the world’s first writing, agriculture and cities.
Iraq Embassy Charge d’Affaires, Dr. Khalid Ibrahim Mohammed
“Now we are restarting … Iraq is keen to strengthen relations with the Philippines at various levels,” Iraq Embassy Charge d’Affaires Dr. Khalid Ibrahim Mohammed told Arab News earlier this week. “There are a lot of things we can do with the Filipinos … we actually need many projects. And we are looking now for partners.”
Mohammed, who took up his post a few months ago, said that while Iraq has, in the past two decades, been the scene of prolonged conflict, it was already witnessing security and stability.
A number of cooperation proposals, particularly relating to agriculture, health, education, security, and oil, were being prepared for the Philippine side, and Mohammed said the Philippines has been invited to participate in his country’s largest expo, the Baghdad International Fair, in November.
“(The fair) is an appropriate opportunity to exchange experiences, display Philippine products, learn about the Iraq market close-up, and see the great openness that the country is experiencing,” he said.
Currently, around 4,000 Filipinos live and work in Iraq, many of whom have Iraqi spouses.
To strengthen connections, Baghdad has launched a Study in Iraq program, offering scholarships to Filipino students.
Mohammed said Iraq is also hoping to persuade tourists from the Philippines to explore the country known as the “cradle of civilization,” as it was the site of the Mesopotamians who developed the world’s first writing, agriculture and cities.
For Filipinos, who are predominantly Catholics, a major attraction could also be the ancient city-state of Ur, where Abraham was born. According to Mohammed, the state has allocated 9,000 square meters for the construction of “the tourist city of Ur, which will be one of the largest tourist cities in the Middle East.”
Mohammed added that tourist traffic could flow both ways, too.
“Maybe very soon you will see the first Iraqi (tourist) group visit the Philippines” he added. “It’s now under process.”