Duterte, Saudi prince discuss migrant workers' rights, cooperation vs COVID-19
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on April 27, 2021, shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during an interview with the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) in the capital Riyadh to mark the fifth anniversary of his vision 2030.
AFP/Saudi Royal Palace

Duterte, Saudi prince discuss migrant workers' rights, cooperation vs COVID-19

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - May 6, 2021 - 5:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte and Saudi Arabia Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud have emphasized the importance of upholding the rights of migrant workers and strengthening their cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two leaders discussed the plight of Filipino migrant workers and the pandemic during a phone conversation initiated by the Crown Prince last Wednesday, according to a Malacañang statement released Thursday.

The president and the Crown Prince cited the "warm and friendly ties" between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

"Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman assured President Duterte that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is fully resolved to do its part in protecting and upholding the rights of Filipino workers in the Kingdom," presidential adviser on foreign affairs and chief of presidential protocol Robert Borje said in the statement.

"For his part, President Duterte recognized Saudi Arabia’s efforts to ensure that the rights, welfare and well-being of Filipinos in the Kingdom are protected and upheld, including recent efforts aimed at labor reform," he added.

Borje said government partnerships for labor and migration reforms have been a key strategy in Duterte's foreign policy pillar on emphasising the protection of Filipinos overseas.

The phone conversation between the two leaders came weeks after Duterte called for the abolition of the Kafala system, wherein a migrant worker must have a sponsor to secure a visa and employment permit. Duterte has said the system is exploitative and places thousands of migrant workers in the most vulnerable situation, the president added. Critics of the system have also claimed that the sponsors' control over the lives of migrant workers could lead to abusive practices.

Borje said the president and the Crown Prince also agreed on the need to "ramp up cooperation to address the COVID-19 pandemic."

"The president thanked Saudi Arabia for including Filipinos in the Kingdom’s COVID-19 vaccination program while Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said that the vaccination program will be implemented until all Filipinos in the Kingdom are inoculated," he said.

Borje noted that Duterte had emphasized the need for universal access to COVID-19 vaccines in his previous public pronouncements. Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has also urged leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies to work towards affordable and equitable access to vaccines, he added.

Borje said the Crown Prince also stressed the importance of strengthening bilateral economic partnership and assured Duterte that efforts to increase trade and investments by Saudi Arabia in the Philippines would continue.

"President Duterte welcomed the Crown Prince’s recognition of bolstering economic engagement as an important part of Philippines-Saudi Arabia relations that needs to be sustained," he added.

There are more than 930,000 Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. 

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