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President Marcos apologizes to OFWs for canceling UAE trip

DUBAI — Despite President Marcos’ last-minute cancellation of his trip to the United Arab Emirates, the gathering with the Filipino community here pushed through on Thursday night and was filled with fun and performances.

The usual festive mood during the FilCom gathering was felt as Filipinos gamely engaged with the event’s host, Philippine-based rapper MC Leandro, and sang along with performers in their rendition of classic original Pilipino music and Christmas songs.

Marcos, in a video message, apologized to Filipinos for not being able to see them personally, saying he has to attend to the case of the 17 Philippine nationals who were among those held hostage by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea on Nov. 19.

The President noted that the happiest part of his foreign visits is his meetings with fellow Filipinos.

“I feel very bad that I have – I will not be able to do it with you this time,” the Chief Executive told Filipinos gathered at the Dubai World Trade Center.

Marcos announced on X his decision to cancel his trip here for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP28, just a few hours before his scheduled departure on Thursday morning.

“You know there are things that need to be attended to immediately…17 of our fellow Filipinos have been taken hostage and we are doing everything possible to bring them home,” the President said in Filipino.

“That’s why we formed a delegation to go to them and talk to those who are holding them so that they can go home. So, perhaps you understand, that we put that first because we have to ensure of course the security of our countrymen,” he added.

He also reported on the Philippine government’s success to remove all Filipinos out of war-torn Gaza.

Marcos has promised to meet the Filipinos in the UAE at some other time.

“But I promise you, when there is another opportunity we will do it again and I will make it up to you,” he said.

Marcos was represented by Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo Jr., who read his speech.

Other government officials present at the meeting with the Filipino community were Science Secretary Renato Solidum,