Philippines opens its first defense attaché office in the Gulf

Citing opportunities for a closer relationship, the Philippines has officially opened a defense attaché’s office in the UAE’s capital city of Abu Dhabi.

The move is also the first by the Philippines in the 6-member Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC), paving the way for stronger defense ties in the region. It is the second defense attaché’s office in the Middle East, the first being in Israel.

In a media advisory issued Sunday evening, February 21, the same day the attaché’s office was opened, the Philippine embassy here stated that Ambassador Hjayceelyn Quintana, head of the Philippine missions to the UAE, led the inaugural rites for the establishment of the Office of the Philippine Defense and Armed Forces Attaché (OPHILDAFA), which is housed in the embassy grounds in Abu Dhabi.

Quintana said the Philippines “recognizes the UAE as an important partner in the region, playing a strategic role in maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East.”

“The OPHILDAFA in the UAE provides a new channel of communication that further manifests President Duterte’s independent foreign policy and adds a new milestone to the 46-year-old diplomatic relationship between the Philippines and UAE,” the ambassador said.

The establishment of the OPHILDAFA in the UAE was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 19, 2019, and accepted by UAE on August 2 of the same year.

Defense Attaché Colonel Cesar Fernandez assumed his post on December 24, 2020.

The opening of the new office coincided with the International Defense Exhibition (IDEX 2021) and the Naval Defense Exhibition (NAVDEX 2021) in Abu Dhabi in the year of UAE’s Golden Jubilee.

In August 2020, the embassy met and established linkages with the EDGE Group, UAE’s defense conglomerate. In marking the occasion, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sent his message saying that the establishment of the OPHILDAFA “provides a greater opportunity for the Philippines and the UAE to accomplish more in the areas of defense and military cooperation.”

Aside from the UAE, other GCC-member countries include Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. –