Qatar on my mind

Manila Times - - OPINION - AMADO S. TO­LENTINO, JR. To­lenti­noA6

so does Saudi Ara­bia” (11 Au­gust 2017); ”Qatar re­stores full re­la­tions with Iran, deep­en­ing Gulf feud” (25 Au­gust 2017). A few sports news from the re­gion gives a ray of hope, at least.

Qatar is the site of the largest American air base (Al-Udeid) in the re­gion. Some neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, in­clud­ing Qatar, are key mil­i­tary part­ners of Wash­ing­ton and part of a broader US-led ef­fort to fa­cil­i­tate peace in some parts of the world.

My stint in Qatar was dur­ing Al-Jazeera TV sta­tion’s rapid growth in pop­u­lar­ity, which in­tro­duced Mid­dle Eastern au­di­ences to a whole new di­verse range of opin­ion after years of con­trolled TV sta­tion out­put. It was also the pe­riod when the con­struc­tion of the US mil­i­tary base was in full swing at which our OFWs com­prised a large part of the la­bor force. Like­wise, it was the be­gin­ning of the take-off of Qatar’s thrust at an epic scale in­vest­ment in ed­u­ca­tion with the ob­jec­tive of lead­ing the coun­try into a “knowl­edge econ­omy” built on a well-ed­u­cated work­force, ready for when in­come from gas and oil runs out. A global ed­u­ca­tion city is now in place which blos­somed from an in­ter­na­tional school, the Qatar Academy and the Qatar Univer­sity (now two uni­ver­si­ties) of­fer­ing var­ied de­gree courses at which fe­male stu­dents con­sti­tute the ma­jor­ity and ex­panded to in­clude ex­ten­sions of US uni­ver­si­ties— Georgetown Univer­sity, Cor­nell Univer­sity, North­west­ern Univer­sity, Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity, to men­tion a few.

By co­in­ci­dence, my stay in Doha saw - ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal con­fer­ence fol­lowed by that of the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion at which our em­bassy had the ex­pe­ri­ence of wel­com­ing a high-level Philip­pine del­e­ga­tion led by For­eign Sec­re­tary Blas Ople. Since then, Qatar has con­tin­u­ously hosted con­fer­ences of the par­ties to mul­ti­lat­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal agree­ments on cli­mate change, bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity and en­dan­gered species. It was also the height of Qatar host­ing state vis­its of heads of state, among them Cuba’s Pres­i­dent Fidel Cas­tro and the young King of Jordan. Nat­u­rally, the di­plo­matic reg­u­lar suc­ces­sion of state vis­i­tors.

It was the time for putting into fruition signed agree­ments be­tween the the Philip­pines and Qatar. I re­mem­ber the inau­gu­ra­tion of Qatar Air­ways’ maiden ex­tended to ev­ery cor­ner of the world uti­liz­ing the most mod­ern air­craft car­ry­ing on board many Filipino crewmem­bers. Tourism was en­er­gized by the trip to Manila of a group of Qatari travel ex­ec­u­tives to meet with their coun­ter­parts along with side vis­its to our tourist sights, in­clud­ing Cebu. It was also the time of the Philip­pine Pres­i­dent’s “Bring Home a Friend” pro­gram which proved very suc­cess­ful among our OFWs and their friends of var­i­ous na­tion­al­i­ties.

I ex­pe­ri­enced the dawn of the 21st cen­tury while in Doha. Philip­pines 21 con­sisted of monthly ac­tiv­i­ties, an ini­tia­tive of the Philip­pine Em­bassy to bring the Filipino com­mu­nity and Qatari so­ci­ety closer to­gether. Among the no­table monthly projects were: “Em­bassy on Wheels”; the tie-up with the Qatar Red Cres­cent So­ci­ety; cul­tural pre­sen­ta­tions be­fore chil­dren and young adults with dis­abil­i­ties; a per­for­mance by an out­stand­ing Filipino con­cert pia per­for­mance be­fore the OFWs and the Qatar di­plo­matic corps; an Asian paint­ing ex­hi­bi­tion; and sports com­pe­ti­tions among var­i­ous na­tion­al­i­ties in Doha.

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