Duterte, Saudi Arabia crown prince discussed stronger OFW protection in phone call — Palace

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) — President Rodrigo Duterte and Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Al Saud discussed in a phone call Wednesday night how to boost protection for Filipino workers in the Middle Eastern country, the Palace has announced.

"Ang pag-uusap po ay nakasentro doon kung paano po mapapalakas pa ang proteksyon na ibibigay sa mga manggagawang Pilipino na nasa Saudi Arabia," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in his virtual briefing on Thursday.

[Translation: Their conversation centered on how to further strengthen the protection given to Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia.]

In a statement later Thursday, the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs (OPAFA) said that the Crown Prince assured Duterte that Saudi Arabia is “fully resolved to do its part in protecting and upholding the rights of Filipino workers in the Kingdom.”

The chief executive, meanwhile, recognized the nation’s efforts to ensure these are done including recent efforts at labor reform, read the statement.

Roque also emphasized how Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of overhauling the kafala system, which requires migrant workers to have a sponsor in their host country prior to the issuance of a visa and worker's permit. The country eventually abolished its kalafa system effective March 14.

He said the Philippines is also a staunch supporter of initiatives to reform the system, noting the huge population of Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia.

READ: Duterte backs complete abolition of kafala system in Middle East

Both leaders “agreed on the need to ramp up cooperation to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” said OPAFA.

Duterte likewise thanked Saudi Arabia for covering Filipino nationals in their vaccination efforts, with the Crown Prince saying the inoculation program will be in place until all Filipinos in the country have received their vaccine shots.

The Saudi Arabian leader emphasized the importance as well of strengthening the country’s economic partnerships, adding that “efforts will continue to increase trade and investments” in the Philippines, added the OPAFA.

Duterte, meanwhile, welcomed the Crown Prince’s recognition of “bolstering economic engagement as an important part of Philippines-Saudi Arabia relations that needs to be sustained,” the statement said.