Egypt attack to spur on Saudi-backed Muslim military alliance: crown prince

UNTV News   •   November 27, 2017   •   4708

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) poses for a photograph with chiefs of staff and defence ministers of a Saudi-led Islamic military counter terrorism coalition during their meeting in Riyadh November 26, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Sunday an attack on an Egyptian mosque that killed more than 300 worshippers would galvanize an Islamic military coalition that aimed to counter “terrorism and extremism”.

Top defense officials from 40 Muslim-majority nation’s met in Riyadh on Sunday. They are part of an alliance gathered together two years ago by Prince Mohammed, who is also Saudi defense minister.

The crown prince has said he would encourage a more moderate and tolerant version of Islam in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Prince Mohamed told delegates that Friday’s attack in Egypt “was a very painful occurrence and must make us contemplate in an international and powerful way the role of this terrorism and extremism”.

Gunmen carrying the flag of Islamic State attacked the mosque in North Sinai.

The group of Muslim nations, called the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, has yet to take any decisive action.

Officials say the group would allow members to request or offer assistance to each other to fight militants. This could include military help, financial aid, equipment or security expertise. The group, which will have a permanent base in Riyadh, would also help combat terrorist financing and ideology.

“The biggest threat from terrorism and extremism is not only killing innocent people and spreading hate, but tarnishing the reputation of our religion and distorting our belief,” Prince Mohammed told officials from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Iraq and Syria, at the forefront of the battle against Islamic State, are not members, nor is mainly Shi‘ite Muslim Iran, the regional rival to mostly Sunni Saudi Arabia.

Qatar, originally part of the alliance, was not invited to Sunday’s meeting after Riyadh led a group of states seeking to isolate Doha, saying it supported terrorism. Doha denies this.

Abdulelah al-Saleh, a Saudi lieutenant general and the coalition’s secretary general, said Qatar was excluded to help build a consensus for launching operations. He also said the group was not aimed at creating a Sunni bloc to counter Iran.

“The enemy is terrorism. It’s not sects or religions or races, its terrorism,” Saleh told reporters.

Saleh said military initiatives had been proposed to the group’s ministerial council, but he did not elaborate.

Despite agreement on principles, members voiced different priorities at the meeting. Yemen’s delegation said the focus should be Iran, al Qaeda and Islamic State, while Turkey called for “support from our friends” against Kurdish separatists.

Critics say the coalition could become a means for Saudi Arabia to implement an even more assertive foreign policy by winning the backing of poorer African and Asian nations with offers of financial and military aid.

Alongside leading a diplomatic charge against Qatar, Saudi Arabia is also leading a war against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in its neighbor Yemen,

Saleh said Riyadh would pay the 400 million riyal ($107 million) bill for the coalition’s new center, but said other nations could offer financial support for specific initiatives.

Additional reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Edmund Blair

Filipino household workers not yet covered by labor reforms in Saudi Arabia — DFA official

Marje Pelayo   •   September 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government is in talks with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as regards cooperation on the welfare and benefits of Filipino household workers there, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Robert Borje said on Thursday.

The Kingdom, he said, is currently implementing labor reforms, however, these do not cover Filipino household workers.

“Mas paiigtingin ang pag-uusap ng Pilipinas at ng KSA kung ano pa ang dapat gawin,” said Borje at Thursday’s Laging Handa press briefing.

“Sa ngayon nga po hindi pa kasama ang household workers natin sa category ng reform, labor reform initiative ng Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pero kasama po ito sa kanilang prayoridad. Iyon po ang kanilang assurance sa atin noong nakausap po natin sila,” he added.

In his speech at the 76th UN General Assembly on Wednesday (September 22), President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call to abolish the ‘kafala system’ or the sponsorship system being imposed in the Arab states used to monitor migrant unskilled workers.

Duterte maintained that “nothing can justify its continued existence.”

Nevertheless, Borje said the government is working continuously to achieve the needed reforms for the protection of Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

“Asahan po ninyo na through the [Department of Labor and Employment] and the Department of Foreign Affairs [DFA] ay gagawain po ang lahat upang maayos at mabigyan ng karampatang atensyon ang reporma,” the official said.

Philippines added to Qatar’s list of ‘special risk’ COVID-19 countries

Marje Pelayo   •   August 31, 2021

Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health has listed the Philippines among countries under the “special risk” category in the Arab state’s COVID-19 travel list.

The list was posted on Qatar’s official agency websites – the Ministry of Public Health of Qatar (MOPH) and its primary health care provider Hamad Medical Corporation.

The Philippines is among six countries which Qatar labeled with special risk in terms of threat of COVID-19 infection along with the following:

  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka

According to Qatar’s travel policy, travelers from these countries are required to follow additional rules:

– Those vaccinated/recovering from COVID-19 in the State of Qatar are subject to a two-day hotel quarantine and are allowed to leave the hotel on the second day if the result of the PCR test is negative.

– The rest of the people are subject to a hotel quarantine for a period of 10 days.​

Meanwhile, passengers coming from countries in other categories will have to pre-register in the State’s Ehteraz website (www.ehteraz.gov.qa) for other arrival requirements.

Generally, Qatar classifies COVID-19 risks into three levels – green, yellow and red.

The Arab state added a category for countries flagged as “Special Risk Six-Country Zone” which includes the Philippines.

“The Ministry of Public Health would like to remind everyone to follow the official website of the Ministry for details of the travel lists of Countries Based on Categorization of COVID-19 Risk,” the HMC reminded.

 

Afghanistan Crisis: OFWs escape to Dubai, Qatar with help from employers

Marje Pelayo   •   August 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Relatives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Afghanistan confirmed with UNTV that their family members have reached Dubai safely after narrowly escaping the unrest in the Taliban-controlled country.

From Dubai, they are expected to return home to the Philippines soon.

On Tuesday (August 18), 35 Filipinos arrived in the Philippines from Afghanistan.

Based on records of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are around 130 Filipinos in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Joseph Glenn Gumpal, who acts as president of the Samahang Pilipino in Afghanistan, said 11 more Filipinos have already made it to Qatar with the help of their employers.

UNTV was able to get in touch with other stranded Filipinos in Afghanistan whose fates remain uncertain after a series of flight cancellations.

Among them is Rio Adrias, who confirmed that they are in constant communication with the Philippine Embassy in Pakistan which has jurisdiction over Filipinos in the Afghan country.

The only problem, Rio said, was that the chartered flight that they were supposed to board on Tuesday was canceled and they were told that they would need to take a commercial flight.

“Hindi pa rin po namin malaman kung kailan makakalapag ang eroplano dito sa Kabul kasi puno pa rin po ng tao ang Kabul airport. Hindi pa rin po lumilikas nasa 10,000 Afghan po ang naghihintay [na] doon na po natutulog,” she said.

Rio is one of the 24 Filipinos currently staying in a shelter some distance away from Kabul airport.

As for their personal needs, Rio said they still have enough supply for several days.

They also worry, however, for the safety of other Filipinos stranded in areas with no access to food and proper lodging.

“Sa pamilya ko, huwag kayong mag-alala ako’y nakakangiti pa pero ako’y naiiyak. Pero doon po sa gobyerno po natin sana po talaga una, matulungan nyo kaming mailikas talaga dito kaming lahat na gustong umuwi kasi talagang ang hirap,” Rio said asking for government support.

“Hindi safe. Hindi kami okay. Hindi namin ma-explain yung pakiramdam namin dito,” she added.

Rio said if she makes it back to the Philippines, she would never go back to Afghanistan.

All she asks for is a livelihood support from the Philippine government in recognition for their contribution to the country’s economy. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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