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VP Binay's official visit strengthens ties with Israel
Tuesday 6th of November 2012
MANILA, Nov. 5 -- Vice President Jejomar C. Binay embarked on a historic five-day visit to the Holy Land from October 23 to 28.

The Israeli government was pleased to note that Vice President Binay was so far the highest Philippine official to have visited Israel in more than a decade. His visit gave a significant impetus and boost to Philippine relations with Israel. He brought with him a promise of closer cooperation on mutually beneficial areas, such as in the transfer of technology, people-to-people exchanges, agricultural, trade and investment partnerships, a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

His official visit to Israel started with a bilateral meeting with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, reaffirming Philippine strong commitment to friendship and cooperation with the State of Israel which began more than 50 years ago. This high-level meeting was an opportunity for both sides to discuss political, economic and socio-cultural developments of both countries, including areas of further cooperation.

President Shimon Peres acknowledged the Philippines' role in the establishment of the State of Israel as well as the Open Door policy of President Manuel Quezon during World War II.

The second day of the visit started with a tour of the Holocaust museum and a simple wreath laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem. Vice President Binay and his delegation saw photographs capturing the atrocities of Nazism against the Jews during World War II.

The Vice President also met Mayor Yona Yahav of Haifa later that day. He met top officials of the municipality, including Philippine Honorary Consul Carmel Hacohen. His visit in Haifa was highlighted by the unveiling of a Philippine marker located at the end of Manila street.

The municipality erected the marker as a symbol of Israel's gratitude to the Filipino people, especially during the time of President Quezon when he accepted European Jews escaping the Holocaust. This is the third marker to have been put up in Israel in commemoration of the Filipino people's kindness to the Jews, the first one being the Open Doors Monument in Rishon Lezion.

A working dinner with his counterpart, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman in Jerusalem, capped the second day of the visit. Both parties extensively discussed the current state of relations between their countries.

On the third day of his official tour, Vice President Binay visited the Open Doors Monument in Rishon Lezion. Mayor Dov Tzur and other top officials of the municipality received the Vice President and the entire delegation.

Vice President Binay met Asher Cohen of the Foreign Relations Department who introduced himself as a Holocaust survivor from Romania.

Mr. Cohen said that he was indeed touched upon learning the kindness of the Filipino people towards the Jews and noted that he will be forever grateful to the Philippines even though he was not able to avail himself of the opportunity to go to the Philippines during their ordeal.

A simple wreath laying ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial park and a small program was held at the Open Doors Monument to immortalize President Quezon's magnanimous act.

Vice President Binay also spoke about the strong and robust economy of the Philippines and its potential vís-a-vís other countries in the region with Israeli businessmen. The Vice President wooed them to take a closer look at the Philippines and consider it as an investment and business destination.

The Vice President also visited Kibbutz Shefayim, which is under the Israel Center for International Cooperation (MASHAV), an arm of the Israeli Foreign Ministry that deals with development cooperation with countries like the Philippines. He was given a tour of the facility and an overview of how the system works.

Vice President Binay and his delegation also visited Filipino soldiers stationed in the Golan Heights under the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

Filipino soldiers gathered together at Camp Ziouani to welcome the Vice President.

Lt. Col. Ramon Estella, the Contingent Commander, welcomed the Vice President and his party, and provided them with an overview of the Philippine contingent's role in the area of separation between Israel and Syria.

The Vice President also called on the newly installed Force Commander and Head of Mission, Major General Iqbal Singha of the Indian Army.

Vice President Binay inspired Filipino troops in the Golan Heights through his speech. He reminded them that they are the pride of the Philippines and that they should maintain the highest standard of conduct at all times and lead as examples to be emulated not only by the next Philippine contingents but also by the entire multinational force.

The Vice President also visited more than 250 Filipino agricultural students studying in Israel under the Granot studies program. He met top officials of Granot, including Foreign Ministry Officials involved in the project.

He lauded the program and promised to link it with other universities in the Philippines so that the project will have broader and wider scope of application in the country.

About a thousand members of the Filipino Community in Israel welcomed and greeted Vice President Binay upon his arrival at Beit Dani, Tel Aviv. He outlined the plans and programs of the current administration that have a bearing on OFWs. He noted that corruption in the Philippines has tremendously lessened, if not eradicated, and that the government is working hard to serve our kababayans.

Vice President Binay also made a short visit to Boys Town Jerusalem (BTJ) where another marker was made in honor of the Filipino people and President Quezon.

Mr. Yoni Strimber led BTJ's officials in welcoming the Vice President. Mr. Strimber facilitated a short ceremony at the marker to remember the great deed of President Quezon.

Vice President Binay's five-day visit was capped by the inauguration of the Quezon Room at the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv. This room is dedicated to the memory of President Quezon's legacy towards the Jews. The room contains several memorabilia, photographs and news clippings about his Open Door Policy.

The Vice President also took this trip as an opportunity to undertake a private visit to Bethlehem, Kefar Cana, Nazareth, Old City of Jerusalem and Massada. (DFA)
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