The humanitarian at the helm of Philippine migrant workers’ affairs

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Susan V. Ople (R) with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas at the Arab News offices in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)
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Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi received Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers of the Philippines Susan Ople and her delegation in Riyadh in Sept. 2022. (SPA/File)
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Susan V. Ople, secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers of the Philippines, and her delegation held a meeting with Saudi authorities led by Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi in Riyadh on May 24. (SPA)
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Hala bint Mazyad Al-Tuwajiri, head of the Human Rights Commission, with Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers of the Philippines Susan V. Ople. (Human Rights Commission)
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Susan V. Ople (R) with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas at the Arab News offices in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)
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Susan V. Ople (R) with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas (C) and Deputy Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali (L) at the Arab News offices in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)
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Updated 30 May 2023
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The humanitarian at the helm of Philippine migrant workers’ affairs

  • Susan V. Ople, secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers, recently visited Arab News office
  • Concern for her overseas compatriots consumed her when she was writing a column even back in 2013

JEDDAH: Last week, Susan V. Ople, secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers of the Philippines, visited Arab News headquarters in Riyadh.

Commenting on her visit, she tweeted: “Once upon a time, I was (a) columnist of @arabnews. Visiting its office in Riyadh was (a) homecoming of sorts.”

Yes, you read it correctly. Ople was once an important part of Arab News. Her visit to Arab News brought back so many memories of the time I dealt with her as an editor.

Appointed to head the Department of Migrant Workers by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. in 2022, Ople previously served as chief of staff of the Office of her father, Senator Blas Ople, and later as chief of staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs when Senator Ople became its secretary. 

She was appointed as undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment by President Gloria Arroyo in 2004.

Writers and editors generally share a love-hate relationship, but it was difficult to hate a humanitarian of Ople’s stature.

During my dealings with her, I noticed thoughts of her overseas compatriots’ welfare always consumed her, as was evident from her articles published in Arab News.

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She is the founder and current president of the Blas Ople Policy Center (BOPC), which assists distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in various parts of the world. 

Yet, no matter how good she was as a columnist, social worker, or politician, she never failed in giving me nightmares or panic attacks by delaying her submissions.

I vividly remember every time I used to vow that I would not accept any excuses from her but her emails exuded so much honesty that I had to accept her submissions.

I would like to share one of her emails with the readers: “My New Year’s resolution is to reduce your stress over my column.”

Though sometimes behind schedule, her write-ups always got her point across, and like a loving mother, she always made efforts to protect the rights of her fellow countrymen working around the world.

Today, she remains actively involved in the media. She is a co-anchor at a popular daily radio show, “Bantay OFW,” at DZXL’s Tatak RMN network and has a Saturday radio program on DWIZ 882 AM called “Global Pinoy.” 

With her latest role in government, I am sure Ople can do a much better job translating her ideas into actions for the well-being of her people. It is not every day that we see a humanitarian at the helm.

We, at Arab News, wish her the best of luck.


Saudi authorities arrest citizen for selling drugs  

Updated 01 October 2023
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Saudi authorities arrest citizen for selling drugs  

RIYADH: The General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested a Saudi citizen in the Hail region for selling the amphetamine drug, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The suspect was arrested and legal measures were taken against him. He was referred to the Public Prosecution.

Authorities repeated calls to citizens and residents about reporting any activities related to drug smuggling or drug promotion in the Kingdom.


50 tourism ministers, 500 guests welcomed to Diriyah for World Tourism Day gala event

Updated 30 September 2023
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50 tourism ministers, 500 guests welcomed to Diriyah for World Tourism Day gala event

  • Among the guests at the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site were 50 tourism ministers from around the world

RIYADH: More than 500 officials, tourism leaders and experts from 120 countries attended a gala event in Diriyah in the Saudi capital this week to mark World Tourism Day.

Among the guests at the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site were 50 tourism ministers from around the world, who had been in the Kingdom for a series of conferences, UN World Tourism Organization initiatives and private sector sessions hosted by Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi minister of tourism.

Zurab Pololikashivli, the UNWTO secretary general, was honored at the event for his leadership and contribution to the sessions and activities that took place throughout World Tourism Day.

“Since its historic grand opening in December 2022, Diriyah has already welcomed one million visitors,” Al-Khateeb said.

“Fast emerging as one of the world’s foremost tourism destinations, Saudi Arabia will target 100 million visits annually by 2030 as it looks to accelerate an $800 billion plan to become a travel hotspot and one of the world’s most visited countries.

“Saudi Arabia is already the most visited country in the region, and by the end of the decade, the sector will contribute more than 10 percent toward the Kingdom’s GDP,” he added.

Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO of Diriyah Company, it was fitting that Diriyah was chosen to host the gala event.

“As Diriyah Company oversees the opening of the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the world, it embodies a vibrant reconnection with the Kingdom's rich history, where a nation was born,” he said.

“Diriyah serves as a bridge between cultures and generations, rekindling its role as one of the world’s greatest gathering places and emerging as a premier cultural tourist destination.

“World Tourism Day reflects a worldwide commitment to preserving heritage, nurturing cultural exchange, and crafting unforgettable experiences for visitors from across the globe. At Diriyah, we are dedicated to bringing these pillars of tourism to life every day,” he added.


Saudia unveils new logo, brand identity at event in Jeddah

Updated 30 September 2023
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Saudia unveils new logo, brand identity at event in Jeddah

  • Also introduced developments in guest services system and incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) into its operational processes
  • Announced refreshed cabin crew uniforms

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) unveiled its new brand identity and livery during an event in Jeddah on Saturday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

According to a statement from the airline, the new identity reflects its commitment to modernization and includes colors that hold deep symbolism in the Saudi identity. 

SAUDIA also introduced developments in its guest services system and has incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) into its operational processes, and announced refreshed cabin crew uniforms, SPA added.

The official presentation of Saudia's new identity took place at the airlines' headquarters and was attended by dignitaries, government and private sector officials, and experts from the aviation and air transport industry.

The date of the launch, September 30, was chosed to commemorate the anniversary of the late King Abdulaziz's first flight aboard a "Saudi Arabian" DC-3 aircraft from Afif to Taif.

The colors of the new logo were also chosen for their links to the Kingdom.

“Green for pride and honor of the national flag, as well as the generosity, culture, and hospitality of Saudi Arabia represented by the palm tree; blue symbolizes the Kingdom's seas and skies, drawing inspiration from them for future groundbreaking initiatives; and lastly, sandy brown signifies the richness and authenticity of the homeland, highlighting its deep-rooted heritage,” the airline statement said.

Director General of Saudia Group, Ibrahim bin Abdulrahman Al-Omar, said the airline was embarking on a new era and entering a distinctive phase.

He highlighted the humble beginnings of the airline with a single aircraft and its subsequent growth to a fleet of over 140 planes, connecting regions within the Kingdom and serving more than 100 destinations across four continents.


Saudi Arabia takes bold steps to safeguard architectural heritage

Updated 30 September 2023
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Saudi Arabia takes bold steps to safeguard architectural heritage

  • The Saudi Heritage Commission has initiated process to register 50,000 sites into the Architectural Heritage Register
  • Experts say each region of the kingdom possesses its own distinct architectural heritage, setting it apart from others

MAKKAH: The preservation of cultural heritage is of the utmost importance in the Kingdom, and the Saudi Heritage Commission is taking significant steps to protect and promote the country’s architectural treasures.

With the recent nomination of 50,000 urban heritage assets for registration, these sites will be added to the Architectural Heritage Register, joining the already registered 3,400 sites.

This collaborative effort, in accordance with the antiquities and urban heritage system, aims to utilize modern technologies to register, categorize, and encode these assets. This initiative not only preserves architectural heritage but also fosters community involvement and paves the way for future development plans.

Salma Hawsawi, a professor of ancient history at King Saud University, said that the Saudi Heritage Commission is currently implementing projects aimed at preserving architectural heritage.

One of these projects is focused on registering urban sites found in all 13 administrative regions of the Kingdom in the Architectural Heritage Register.

Hawsawi said: “This endeavor involves active participation from local communities and encompasses a wide range of structures, including villages, neighborhoods, towers, fortresses, ancient temples, castles, walls, and mosques. These sites possess a rich historical and cultural significance, reflecting the unique aesthetic value created by humanity since ancient times.

Salma Hawsawi, a professor of ancient history at King Saud University. (Supplied)

“Each region of the Kingdom possesses its own distinct architectural heritage, setting it apart from others. This diversity can be attributed to the varied terrains found throughout the country, which influenced the choice of construction materials. The embellishments adorning the facades, doors, and windows of buildings were inspired by the local environment.

“The coastal communities, for instance, incorporated gypsum and wood into their architecture and decorations. Mountain communities, known for their physical strength, utilized their abilities to carve houses and graves into the mountains. Numerous pieces of evidence support this notion, as caves scattered across the Kingdom are adorned with drawings and inscriptions that depict the rich history of these communities.”

He added: “Due to the significance of architectural heritage and its close connection to culture, heritage, and identity, the Saudi Heritage Commission initiated a project with the objective of gradually registering 50,000 sites into the Architectural Heritage Register.

“The process consists of several stages. First, an extensive search and discovery of sites takes place. This is followed by the nomination phase, where all relevant information about the sites is collected.

"The third stage involves the registration of the sites, during which the data is carefully examined and validated. Subsequently, the fourth stage focuses on classifying the sites according to the standards set by the commission. Finally, in the fifth and final stage, a code is assigned to each site and plaques are installed to validate their authenticity and historical significance.”

Hawsawi highlighted the project’s aim of preserving cultural heritage and having it listed in the national register as a step toward potential inclusion in UNESCO's World Heritage List.

He added: “This registration holds political, economic, and social dimensions, as it strengthens international relations, diversifies the national economy, reduces unemployment, and enhances the overall standard of living.”


Saudi-funded energy transmission network launched in Seychelles

Updated 30 September 2023
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Saudi-funded energy transmission network launched in Seychelles

Saudi Fund for Development CEO Sultan Al-Marshad participated in the opening of the 33 KV Transmission Network of South Mahe Island Project in the Seychelles, in the presence of the country’s President Wavel Ramkalawan and Vice President Ahmed Afif, on Saturday.

The Saudi fund contributed a development loan worth $20 million, which aims to improve the electricity transmission network in the south of the island to ensure the quality of electrical energy, to enhance social infrastructure activities such as education and health, and to stimulate economic and commercial development.

In a post on X, Al-Marshad wrote that the project will bring “reliable and affordable electricity to thousands of households, while boosting the economy and creating jobs.” He added: “We wish the nation of Seychelles a prosperous future.”