THE Philippines should take a second look at Kurdistan and explore trade, investment and other opportunities that are available for Filipino companies in Iraq’s thriving northern autonomous region.
This was the message of officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government, led by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, who asked the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad to convey the message to Manila.
The Philippines can actually do more in Kurdistan because of our strong potential for economic growth and our stable security situation, Talabani told Philippine Charge d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato during his recent visit to Erbil, the regional capital.
Kurdistan region is in Upper Mesopotamia and the Zagros Mountains, including parts of southeastern Anatolia, Northern Syria, Northern Iraq and Northwestern Iranian plateau.
The Kurdish official said the Philippines should expand its presence in Kurdistan and take advantage of the numerous opportunities for trade and investment that are available to Philippine companies in the region.
At the same time, Talabani cited the positive contribution of Filipinos in Kurdistan and assured Cato that they are protected in the region. He also said that no less than his own wife, Sherri, has personally been helping Filipinos in distress.
Of the estimated 1,500 Filipinos in Iraq, more than 1,000 are working in the oil-rich region, particularly in the areas of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk. Many are engineers, nurses, managers, administrative staff, hotel, airport and restaurant employees.
Talabani also said he is aware of the good reputation of health workers from the Philippines because Filipino nurses are taking care of his father, former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
A fan of Filipino boxing icon Rep. Manny Pacquiao, the deputy prime minister said he would also want to pursue sports cooperation, especially between Filipino and Kurdish youth.
We are thankful for the hospitality the Kurdish people have extended to our kababayan who have made Kurdistan their second home, Cato told the deputy prime minister. We look forward to not only deepening our people-to-people ties but also exploring other areas where we could cooperate.
Aside from Talabani, Cato also met separately with Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Interior Minister Karim Sinjari and Trade and Industry, Minister Samal Sardar Mahmood. He also had meetings with immigration and labor officials and members of the Erbil Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as local business leaders and journalists.