June 19, 2021

PH wants to work with Saudi Arabia on innovative labor collaboration

Malacañang said on Friday that the Philippines is pursuing advanced labor collaboration with Saudi Arabia in order to preserve and safeguard the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf country.

The Philippines’ Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje, traveled to the Arab kingdom on Friday for an official visit aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and promoting labor reform collaboration, according to the Palace.

“President (Rodrigo) Duterte sends special envoy to Saudi Arabia to strengthen relations, promote labor reform collaboration, and guarantee the safety of OFWs,” the statement added.

“PAFA Borje is also anticipated to deliver President Duterte’s important remarks on the significance of the Philippines-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relationship and cooperation.”

Borje has also been ordered by Duterte to send a letter to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, according to Malacaang.

According to the Palace, Duterte’s promised “Kalinga at Malasakit (Care and Compassion)” for OFWs would be fulfilled amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) epidemic.

Borje was accompanied on the special trip to Saudi Arabia by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola and Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary for Global Media and Public Affairs Jusan Vincent Arcena.

Borje and other members of the Philippine delegation are also expected to meet with Saudi Arabian officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, and other relevant Saudi agencies, according to Malacaang.

The team will also meet with representatives from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, and members of the local Filipino community, according to the statement.

The high-level team would also supervise repatriation efforts for Filipinos afflicted by the Covid-19 epidemic, according to Malacaang.

Borje has been designated as Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia for the second time, after Duterte’s appointment of him as Special Envoy to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia in 2019.

Last month, the Philippine government removed a temporary ban on Filipino employees being sent to Saudi Arabia.

Following early allegations that Filipinos were being forced to bear the expense of health and safety procedures for Covid-19 as well as insurance premiums upon entrance to Saudi Arabia, the temporary deployment restriction was imposed.

The cost of institutional quarantine and insurance is said to be 3,500 Saudi riyals, or PHP47,000, according to reports.

In a phone call last month, Duterte and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud also reaffirmed their resolve to enhance bilateral ties, particularly in commerce and investment, and to expand collaboration on migrant worker rights.

Duterte thanked King Salman and characterized Saudi Arabia’s Labor Reform Move as a historic initiative that would help migrant workers in the Gulf kingdom, especially OFWs, in December 2020.

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