PH, Saudi Agree to Intensify Labor Reforms

The Philippines and Saudi Arabia renewed the shared commitment Sunday to further heighten cooperation aimed at ensuring the well-being of Filipino migrant workers in the Kingdom underscoring their significance in Saudi Arabia’s development.

Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert E. A. Borje and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) Minister Ahmad Sulaiman Al Rajhi articulated the position of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia to work more closely together in bilateral and multilateral fora to highlight significant advancements in labor reform and fair migration.

PH, Saudi Agree to Intensify Labor Reforms
Credits: PNA

Heightened Labor Reforms: Agenda on PH-Saudi Agreement

According to him, President Rodrigo Duterte praised Saudi Arabia’s announcement of the Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), calling it an important step toward addressing flaws with the Middle Eastern country’s existing sponsorship system, the Philippine News Agency reported.

Borje also solicited the cooperation of the MHRSD minister for additional Philippine initiatives aimed at better serving the needs of overseas Filipino workers in the Arab country.

These include the ongoing repatriation program for distressed Filipinos affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as attempts to reinforce the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Consulate-General in Jeddah and improve access to consular services for Filipinos in the Kingdom.

Borje further emphasized the importance of addressing fundamental challenges for all migrant workers in the Kingdom.

These include using technology to increase access to labor-sector services, wage protection, and recruiting automation.

Both parties are looking forward to the Joint Commission Meeting and have expressed a desire to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on labor soon, based on the Saudi government’s LRI reforms.

Both officials wish to see the formation of a technical working group to discuss the labor-related issues of the MOU.

Borje characterized Saudi Arabia’s migrant rights measures as daring and imaginative, deserving of partners’ cooperation.

He also expressed confidence that Philippine-Saudi Arabia relations would go beyond labor collaboration.

Recognizing that labor is the most personal connection between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, he stated that commerce and investment are two areas that might benefit from expansion.

He stated that the Philippines is willing to work with Saudi Arabia on the multifaceted alliance that Duterte desires.

The meeting with the MHRSD Minister is part of the Philippine delegation’s official visit to Saudi Arabia, which is based on the President’s resolve to defend the rights and well-being of OFWs.

During a phone call earlier this year between Duterte and His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the Crown Prince assured the Filipino leader that the Kingdom will look after the Filipinos it hosts.

The Duterte administration continues to prioritize “Kalinga at Malasakit” for OFWs.

Borje was chosen by the President as Special Envoy to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia in 2019. This is his second appointment as Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sara Lou Arriola, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Enrico Fos, and Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto were also present during the meeting.

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