On the occasion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s 92nd National Day
HISHAM BIN SULTAN AL-QAHTANI AMBASSADOR OF THE CUSTODIAN OF THE TWO HOLY MOSQUES TO THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
The Manila Times
THE Kingdom of Saudi Arabia celebrates its National Day on September 23, the first day of the month of Libra, to commemorate the Kingdom’s UNIfiCATION AND FOUNDING BY His Majesty King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud, may God have mercy on him. On this day (September 23) in 1932, the Kingdom was born after 32 years of heroic battles culminating in the takeover of the city of Riyadh. By September 17 of that year, His Majesty King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud, may God have mercy on him, issued a royal decree unifying all territories of the modern Saudi State under the name “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” bestowing the title of “King” on His Majesty and referring to him as the “King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” In the same royal decree, His Majesty marked the unification of modern Saudi Arabia, which is now celebrated every year as the Kingdom’s National Day. During His Majesty King Abdulaziz’s reign, the modern Saudi State emblem was adopted: “two swords crossed between them, a palm tree.” A rectangular green flag with a monotheistic affirmation of faith in the middle, “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God” in white, and a white sword below. Saudi Arabia also commemorates the country’s three-century founding. This is the first Saudi state, which is commemorated on February 22 each year as part of the country’s national holidays. The current Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strives to create and provide a decent life for its 34 million Saudi citizens. This policy also applies to foreigners who visit the Kingdom from all over the world. With the support and patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, may God protect him, the Kingdom launches Vision 2030, His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud’s pioneering work for the country’s future. Vision 2030 seeks to invest in the country’s strengths, from a distinguished strategic location to investment power, to pioneering Arabic and Islamic knowledge, and to leadership that is fully committed to harnessing all of these opportunities to achieve the Vision’s ambitions. Many accomplishments have already been made IN THE LAST fiVE YEARS, WHICH HAVE CONTRIBUTED to tangible results at the levels of government, economic and societal work. The Kingdom has faced numerous challenges and gained numerous experiences that have increased citizens’ trust in the national leadership. The Kingdom has lofty ambitions. It invests in the government’s digital transformation, creates opportunities for growth and investment, establishes several new economic sectors, opens its doors to the rest of the world, and improves the quality of citizens’ lives. All of these accomplishments are the result of the collective efforts of this great nation’s sons. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia began its success story in 2016 with Vision 2030, which was based on the country’s strengths and unique capabilities. In terms of the three axes that comprise the Vision, the Vision’s realization programs have achieved remarkable success: 1. a thriving community that promotes healthy living and serves visitors from all over the world, in addition to an interest in archaeological sites and their inclusion in the UnescoWorld Foundation 2. a thriving economy that meets targets for women’s labor force participation, significant growth in the Public Investment Fund assets, and an increased contribution of small and medium-sized businesses to GDP 3. an ambitious country that has made significant progress in the two pillars of “effective government” and “responsible citizen,” as non-oil revenues have increased significantly and the number of volunteers has more than doubled annually The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques prioritizes education and pays special attention to women’s issues, as evidenced by the opening of the new Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University campus in Riyadh at a cost of 20 billion Saudi Riyals and an eight-million-square-meter plot of land. This university is regarded as the world’s largest private university for women. It can house approximately 50,000 students. The role of Saudi women in nation building has been recognized in the past, present and future, as women are the foundation of society that aids in the advancement of Saudi women’s care and attention, as well as meeting their needs. This is due to a strong awareness of women’s importance in society. Women play an important role. They play an important role in the development of Saudi society. They contribute significantly to Saudi income growth by participating in the labor market. They stimulate economic activity, which aids in the development of the state’s economy. The majority of women’s projects in the state generate profits of more than 50 percent. Women market projects effectively, and this is part of Saudi women’s role in nation building. Women are making strides in the modern world. Women’s social and economic status has risen to a high level. They are not restricted to the four corners of the wall. They are working breeders, good housewives, and proud mothers and daughters. Previously, women were only associated with household care. Women are now involved in business, government, and special transformation tasks. They discover their inner talents and grow into selfsufficient individuals. The national leadership of the Kingdom was not content with facing minor challenges, as it demonstrated to the entire world its ability to benefit from all surrounding circumstances, through the vision and beneficial reading of current situations. The coronavirus pandemic was a prime example. The Kingdom was able to use its position as Group of Twenty (G20) president in 2020 to help raise $8 billion to combat the global pandemic and support health sectors in many remote countries. The Kingdom›s success in this area, in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic and controlling the curve of injuries and deaths to nearly normal levels, was due to the measures taken by the national leadership in following up, providing support, and securing the necessary regulatory frameworks. As a result of school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, six million children BENEfiTED FROM THE INNOVATIVE DIGITAL EDUCATION platform, “My School,” which was made an integral part of the Kingdom’s march towards digital education and distance learning, contributing to 98 percent of the registration across the country on the “My School” platform. This demonstrates the Kingdom’s expertise in information technology. As of right now, Vision 2030 is in full swing, and its programs to make it happen have included eleven key parts, as announced: 1. Through the development and deepening of financial sector institutions and the development of the Saudi financial market to form an advanced financial market, the Financial Sector Development Program aims to develop a diverse and effective financial sector that supports the development of the national economy, diversifies its sources of income, and stimulates savings, finance, and investment. 2. The goal of the Financial Sustainability Program is to improve how well the government works by putting an emphasis on efficiency, growing revenue, and managing risks. 3. The Health Sector Transformation Program aims to restructure the Kingdom’s health sector into a comprehensive, effective, and integrated health system based on the individual and societal health. 4. The Housing Program helps Saudi families find housing solutions based on their needs and goals, with a focus on technology and sustainability. 5. Through the promotion of values, the development of basic and future skills, and the development of knowledge, the Human Capacity Development Program seeks to develop citizens with capabilities that enable them to compete globally. 6. The National Industrial Development and Logistics Program aims to transform the Kingdom into a leading industrial power and a global logistics platform by maximizing the value generated by the mining and energy sectors and focusing on the axes of local content and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in order to significantly contribute to the maximization and diversification of the economic impact of the targeted sectors. 7. The goal of the pilgrim service program is to enrich and deepen the experiences of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims by giving them excellent service at every step of their journey. 8. The privatization program aims to strengthen the private sector’s role in providing services and making government assets available to it by improving service quality and lowering costs, as well as stimulating economic diversification, economic development, and competitiveness. 9. The Public Investment Fund program promotes economic diversification through international and local strategic investments. 10. The Quality of Life Program improves the quality of life for individuals and families by making sure that the right conditions are in place to support and create new options that encourage more participation in cultural, recreational, sports, and tourism activities by citizens, residents, and visitors. 11. The National Transformation Program aims to build the infrastructure and create an enabling environment for the public, private, and non-profit sectors to work together to achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. It also focuses on achieving excellence in government performance, promoting community development, and ensuring the sustainability of vital resources. The Kingdom’s reach extends beyond science and technology. It is required to protect the environment and to mitigate global warming. His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince, has launched the “Green Saudi Initiative” to chart the Kingdom’s course in protecting the land and nature and putting them on the map. The roadmap is concise and ambitious in terms of milestones. It seeks to increase vegetation cover, lower carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and protect marine life. The initiative aims to plant ten billion trees throughout the Kingdom, reducing carbon emissions by more than 4 percent of global contributions. It also establishes a renewable energy strategy to increase the Kingdom’s share of clean energy from 0.3 percent to 50 percent by 2030. Furthermore, the “Green Middle East” initiative aims to coordinate efforts and keep up with regional and international developments in order to significantly contribute to achieving global climate change goals. This initiative includes improving the efficiency of hydrocarbon technologies in the region by launching the world’s largest reforestation plan, which aims to plant 50 billion trees in the Middle East, resulting in a 2.5% reduction in global carbon rates. These collaborative efforts will reduce carbon emissions by more than 10% of global contributions. The Kingdom’s efforts in the field of human rights have emerged in terms of protecting and promoting human rights through established regulations and laws, as well as preserving the rights of women, children, people with disabilities, and expatriate workers. The factors of equality, non-discrimination, and gender equality in work and education, as well as receiving health services, grants, and subsidies, were not overlooked, as were the bodies and institutions concerned with preserving and protecting human rights. The Kingdom has certainly not forgotten equality by launching the system of freedom of opinion and expression; strengthening the principle of systematic restriction in accordance with relevant international standards, and protecting the rights of others to ensure non-infringement. The Kingdom’s efforts to attract more foreigners and provide them with job opportunities are linked to the established Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law by the national leadership. Based on international and regional standards for combating human trafficking crimes, the law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons described in the Protocol to Prevent and Punish Trafficking in Human Beings, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol), as well as other forms not included in such protocol, namely conducting medical experiments and begging. In addition, the Kingdom successfully implemented a new contractual system that prohibits the sponsorship system. The new Saudi regulation is part of a Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development initiative to improve contractual relationships and create an appealing labor market and investment environment. According to the new system or “improving” initiative, the “contractual relationship” for private sector workers is flexible. It is a reference document in the labor relationship between the employer and the worker that helps to reduce the disparity in contractual procedures between the local Saudi worker and the non-Saudi expatriate. A Saudi worker is free to move from one job to another without the permission of his or her employer. Once the employer is notified electronically, he or she is free to travel outside of Saudi Arabia. This procedure is now being extended to both domestic and foreign workers. When it comes to tourism, since the establishment of the Supreme Commission for Tourism in 2000, the Kingdom has seen remarkable development in many areas of tourism. Tourist facilities and entertainment, as well as calendar months, have been classified into several tourist seasons. For example, the Riyadh Season, Diriyah Season, Al-Ula Season, Hail Season, Eastern Region Season, Ramadan Eid Season, Jeddah Season, Taif Season, and Saudi National Day Season. There are also market and heritage festivals, plays, and events. The Al Ward Village event, the Camel Festival, the Souk Okaz event, the Al Ahsa Program, the Al Hada event, and many other festivals and entertainment events are among them. The Kingdom has also opened tourist visas in all of its embassies around the world in order to attract foreign visitors or delegations to enjoy the Kingdom›s natural, Islamic, and archaeological landmarks. The Kingdom is now home to the World Tourism Organization, which chose Riyadh as its Middle East headquarters. In the humanitarian field, through the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Action, the Kingdom provides humanitarian assistance to friendly and brotherly countries around the world. More than $58.7 billion in aid has been distributed globally, with the friendly Republic of the Philippines benefiting from $4,680,841 million in food, relief, humanitarian, and financial assistance through 12 projects from 2016 to 2022. Of course, the Saudi-Philippine relationship benefits from friendly cooperation in all fields. The Kingdom and the Philippines had been in contact culturally since 1380 A.D., centuries before the arrival of Spain via Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Arab missionaries arrived on the coasts of Mindanao’s islands, bringing Islam and preaching its civilization. The exchange and recognition of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom and the Philippines in 1969 only served to strengthen this centuries-old relationship. Economic, commercial, investment and technical cooperation agreements have been signed between the Kingdom and the Philippines over time. The Saudi-Philippine Joint Committee was established in 1994 by the two friendly states to enhance their bilateral relations in all fields. In light of that development, all economic and commercial activities began to take shape, beginning with high-level conferences, academic seminars, cultural exhibitions, and exchanges of visits between officials, businessmen, and citizens from the two friendly countries. Agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed by and between the two friendly countries. These included documents about agriculture, investments, and security, including the exchange of prisoners. Furthermore, the Philippines was represented at the Fourth Session of the Meetings of the Saudi-Philippine Joint Committee, held in Riyadh on November 27-28, 2012, by Madam Erlinda Basilio, Undersecretary for Political Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs. His Excellency Dr. Ali Nasser Al-Ghafis, Governor of the General Organization for Technical Education and Technical Training, represented Saudi Arabia. The fifth session took place in Manila on November 7-8, 2018. His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Nasser Abuthin, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Development, led the Kingdom. Enrique Austria Manalo, Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs for Political Affairs, led the Philippine delegation. The meeting discussed ways to strengthen the bilateral relationship, consolidate aspects of cooperation, and review the outcomes of previous committee meetings, which resulted in an exchange of experiences and successful visits between the two sides. The Kingdom is still one of the first countries targeted by Filipino workers, with over one million Filipino male and female expatriate workers currently residing there. They play an important role in the Kingdom’s rapid development. The sending and hiring of Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia began in 1973, and it is now regarded as an important component of Saudi-Philippine relations. For more than three decades, millions of Filipino workers have been employed in the Kingdom. In addition, remittances from Filipino workers in the Kingdom have supported the Philippines’ national income and economy over the last 20 years. These remittances account for approximately 8.4 percent of the country’s GDP. The Kingdom is without a doubt among the countries that host Filipino laborers who remit their earnings to their home country. Following the implementation of the Nitaqat program, a Saudi exclusive undertaking, it has been observed that demand for Filipino workers has been steadily increasing in recent years, particularly among domestic workers and nurses. The two friendly countries also have similar perspectives on security issues and the abolition of terrorism. They help each other on a regional and international scale. Bilateral agreements have resulted in visits between delegations from both countries, and the dispatch of trainees continues to improve the level of cooperation between them in all fields. As I conclude my remarks, I would like to emphasize that today’s celebration of the Kingdom’s National Day is especially significant because it recognizes the Kingdom’s efforts to advance and enhance capabilities in all fields of relations through diligent work and confidence in facing the world with greater audacity. Finally, I wish the friendly Philippines and its people continued success, prosperity, and progress in their collective efforts to reach higher levels of development under His Excellency President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr.