PH eyes setting up bank in Bahrain

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By Mayvelin U. Caraballo/ – TMTThe Department of Finance (DoF) on Wednesday said it is exploring the possibility of opening a subsidiary of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) in Bahrain for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and to facilitate trade and investment with Manama.

In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd told members of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) he will suggest to President Rodrigo Duterte to consider such possibility, as well as schedule a presidential visit to the Persian Gulf state, where as many as 100,000 Filipinos live and work.

“We are at the moment converting and acquiring a bank to be a subsidiary [of LandBank]to provide for the needs of our overseas workers. I will certainly advise the President to make sure he visits Bahrain and look into the possibility of establishing a bank there for ease of doing business between us,” Dominguez was quoted as saying in his recent meeting with BCCI members.

Dominguez also chairs the LandBank Board.

The government plans to acquire and convert the Philippine Postal Bank into a LandBank subsidiary, which will be partly owned by OFWs, the DoF said.

A bank dedicated to the needs of OFWs was among the promises of President Duterte to Filipino migrant workers, it added.

Dominguez’s statement was in response to a suggestion by the BCCI to establish Philippine banks in Bahrain to help strengthen financial relations between the two countries.

The delegation broached the possibility of working together to help the country broaden its market for halal goods overseas, and expanding Bahrain’s investments in the Philippines, the DoF said.

“We have to work together on halal matters. The halal market is a big market that the Philippines [can tap],” His Excellency Khalid Abdulrahman Almoayed, BCCI chairperson was quoted as saying du ring the meeting.

In the meeting, the DoF said Almoayed cited concerns regarding the Philippine government’s requirements for Filipino workers going to Bahrain, which he said “involved a lot of paperwork.”

Dominguez said he will refer the matter to the secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment. “I will suggest that we refine our regulations … The President’s commitment is to simplify these steps,” he said.

Dominguez stressed that the Duterte administration is investing heavily in both urban and rural infrastructure and increasing public expenditures in social services to improve transport and logistics networks across the country and create jobs and spur development, especially outside of Metro Manila.

“In the area of infrastructure, we will welcome investments – we are bidding out the refurbishment of our airports, among others, looking at opening our markets and getting rid of most of the restrictions,” Dominguez said.

He offered to provide the BCCI with a list of the infrastructure projects for public-private partnerships.

A financial hub of the Middle East, Bahrain ranks as the 79th Philippine trading partner and 65th export market, the DoF said. The Philippines and Bahrain formally established diplomatic ties in 1978.

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