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Marcos says OFWs' presence in Middle East a plus factor in drawing in Arab investors

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Tuesday (Wednesday, PH time) cited the strong presence of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East as a big factor in attracting investors from Arab countries.

At an open forum at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Marcos said the Philippines would welcome any major capital intensive investment now as it tries to get out of the debt it has incurred.

The President also said Southeast Asia needs to regain the position it had before the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the region had a fast-growing economy while retaining the basic elements that brought it to that point before then.

“The workforce is still workforce, still exists. It is up to us as leaders, I think, to be very careful how we direct now the development of the economy because it’s not business as usual. The pandemic changed everything,” Marcos said.

“So specific to the Middle Eastern countries, we have very strong relations actually with the Middle Eastern countries," he added.

This is due to the huge numbers of OFWs in the Middle East, Marcos said.

“Because in the talks that we’ve had with some of the leaders from the Middle East, the discussion always begins with the overseas Filipino workers,” he said.

The President also said trade is part of the discussion with Arab nations as the country's proposed sovereign wealth fund, the Maharlika Investment Fund, is being discussed.

“Some of the examples that we’re looking at are the ones in the Middle East because they have been the ones that have been most successful,” he said.

“The connections are there — we just not have — put it in that area. But I’m sure that any opportunities that we will be given... have to take full advantage of,” Marcos said.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Carlos Sorreta earlier said Marcos will bring up the sovereign wealth fund during the WEF scheduled from January 16 to 20 in Davos.

"It's really more of a soft launch, to introduce it," Sorreta said during a press briefing.

Marcos on Monday said the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund will make investments in the basic areas of agriculture, energy, digitalization and climate change.

Marcos hopes that the wealth fund will be a mechanism to increase the country's economic stability and alleviate poverty, the Presidential Communications Office said. —KG, GMA Integrated News