Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Israel for a four-day visit on Sunday as part of a regional tour that includes shopping for arms, AFP reported. It is the first visit by a Philippine president in over six decades of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
On Monday, Duterte, who is shifting away from his nation’s long-time dependence on US military hardware and support, will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sign agreements before visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
Duterte has pivoted his country away from its former colonial ruler the United States and toward closer diplomatic and business ties with China and Russia.
The US and Canada have both seen military hardware deals with the Philippines fall through because of concerns over Duterte’s lethal drug war. However, deals with Israel have so far been unhindered by his controversial domestic policies.
“[The visit] is for President Duterte to look for an alternative market for… weapons for our armed forces as well as for the police,” Henelito Sevilla, an international relations expert at the University of the Philippines, told AFP.
Israel is among the world’s biggest arms dealers, with nearly 60% of its defense exports going to the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry.