MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is to make an official visit to Israel next month, his government said on Monday (Aug 13), nearly two years after he sparked outrage by likening his deadly drug war to the Holocaust.
The Sep 2-5 trip will be the first by a Filipino leader since diplomatic ties were established between the two countries in 1967, a foreign department statement said.
Duterte and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss how to develop ties on issues including security and counter-terrorism, according to the statement.
Israel has been a key weapons supplier to the Philippines, which is fighting Islamic militants as well as communist guerrillas.
An Israeli firm supplied the thermal imaging system for an armoured military unit that killed the top leader of Islamic State group-linked militants who seized the southern city of Marawi last year, the unit has told AFP.
Duterte faced global condemnation in September 2016 when he compared his crackdown on drugs to Adolf Hitler’s genocidal drive in World War II.
“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said. Most mainstream historians say six million Jews died in the Holocaust.
Duterte later apologised to the Jewish community over his remarks, which he said were aimed at critics who had likened him to the Nazi leader.
His government also pointed out the Philippines gave refuge to around 1,300 Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
Duterte, 73, won elections in 2016 by a landslide after a campaign dominated by his pledge to rid society of drugs by killing tens of thousands of people.
Since Duterte took office, police say they have killed 4,354 drug suspects, with many others murdered by unknown killers. Rights groups allege the total dead in the campaign is more than 13,000.