Duterte to visit the Middle East in February

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte plans to visit the Middle East next month, hoping to seal new business deals in the region and meet the large Filipino community there, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) has revealed.

PCCI, which has accompanied Duterte in all his official state visits, is already in talks with Malacañang about possible trips to Saudi Arabia and Qatar early in February.

"This visit is to attract Middle East investors to come in. But also, it's to promote Philippine goods to them. It's already being done now because we have a huge Philippine community in the countries there," PCCI President George Barcelon said in a media roundtable on Wednesday.

Barcelon said Middle East businesses would likely be looking to invest in the infrastructure, real estate and tourism industries.

Meanwhile, Philippine firms are keen to export more agricultural goods to the region. The business delegation will discuss the process of securing halal certifications to sell their food products, Barcelon said.

PCCI will go ahead and hold investor roadshows in Saudi Arabia on January 23, Qatar on January 24-25, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 25-26. The group is also considering to visit Oman after.

The Middle East is the prime destination for overseas Filipino workers (OFW). In 2015, 1.4 million OFWs worked in the Middle East — equivalent to 56% of the total OFW population.

Saudi Arabia is home to about 25% of OFWs, followed by the UAE with 15.5% and Kuwait with 5.8%, government data showed.