By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday apologized to the Filipino community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the cancellation of his trip to Dubai, expressing hope that they would understand his decision.

In a video message uploaded on the Presidential Communications Office’s official Facebook page late Thursday evening, Marcos said he feels “very bad” not to push through with his Dubai trip, as he wished to meet with the Filipino community in the Arab nation.

Nakakapanghinayang nga dahil (It’s really sad because) I was looking forward to being with you,” he said, noting that meeting overseas Filipinos were the “happiest” engagements he had during his previous foreign trips.

“I feel very bad I will not be able to do this with you at this time. Ngunit ipinapangako ko sa inyo, kapag nagkaroon pa ng ibang pagkakataon ay gagawin natin ulit iyan at (But I promise you, if there is another opportunity, we will do it again and) I will make it up to you.”

Marcos expressed hope that the Filipino community in Dubai would understand his decision, telling them that the government needs to address important developments in the case of the 17 Filipino seafarers held hostage by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

Marcos said his administration is exhausting all available remedies to ensure the safety of the Filipino hostages.

Alam naman ninyo may mga bagay na kailangan agad na asikasuhin. Isa na dun ‘yung ating mga kababayan, mga kapwa Pilipino natin na na-hostage, 17 sila na na-hostage at ginagawa natin lahat ng paraan upang sila ay maiuwi na (There are things that need to be attended to immediately. One of them is our compatriots, our fellow Filipinos, who were taken hostage, 17 of them have been taken hostage and we are exerting all efforts to bring them home),” he said.

Kaya’t binubuo natin ang isang delegasyon para pumunta sa kanila at makipag-usap dun sa mga may hawak sa kanila para makauwi na sila. Kaya’t, siguro naman maunawaan ninyo, na inuna muna natin ‘yan dahil kailangan nating tiyakin ang syempre, ang seguridad ng ating mga kababayan (That’s why we are forming a delegation to talk to those who are holding them so they could go home. I’m sure you would understand that we put that first because we have to ensure the security of our countrymen).”

Marcos was supposed to leave for Dubai on Thursday morning and meet with the Filipino community in the UAE when he arrives in the Gulf country.

However, an hour before his scheduled departure, Marcos announced on his official X (formerly Twitter) account that he would no longer attend the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in Dubai to personally attend to the case of the 17 Filipino seafarers.

Marcos also told the Filipino community in the UAE that he has to attend to the case of Filipino nationals affected by the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

He said several Filipinos affected by the Israel-Hamas conflict have already safely arrived in the Philippines through the help of various government agencies.

Kaya’t patuloy naman ang aming ginagawa upang ang ating mga kababayan ay maging maganda naman ang kanilang sitwasyon, at sa lalong madaling panahon ay sana makauwi na sila (That’s why we continue to do what we are doing to alleviate the situation of our countrymen, and hopefully, they could go home soon),” Marcos said. (PNA)