PH seeks advanced labor cooperation with Saudi Arabia

July 3, 2021


OFFICIAL VISIT. Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje, who is also the Philippines’ Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia. Borje flew to the Arab state on Friday (June 18, 2021) for an official visit aimed at enhancing the countries’ bilateral ties and advancing their labor reform cooperation. (Photo from PCOO)

MANILA – The Philippines is eyeing an advanced labor cooperation with Saudi Arabia to uphold and protect the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf nation, Malacañang said on Friday.

Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje, who has been tapped as the Philippines’ Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia, flew to the Arab state on Friday for an official visit aimed at enhancing the countries’ bilateral ties and advancing their labor reform cooperation, the Palace said.

“President (Rodrigo) Duterte sends special envoy to Saudi Arabia to enhance ties, advance labor reforms cooperation, (and) ensure (the) well-being of OFWs,” it said in a press statement.

“PAFA Borje is also expected to convey President Duterte’s key messages on the importance of the partnership and cooperation between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Duterte, Malacañang said, has also tasked Borje to deliver a letter addressed to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

The visit also aims to fulfill Duterte’s promised “Kalinga at Malasakit (Care and Compassion)” for OFWs, especially during the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Palace added.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola and Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary for Global Media and Public Affairs Jusan Vincent Arcena joined Borje in the special mission to Saudi Arabia.

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

The delegation, it added, will also meet with officials of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, and members of the Filipino community there.

“At the same time, the high-level delegation will also oversee repatriation missions for Filipinos affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Malacañang said.

This is the second time Borje has been designated as Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia after he was appointed by Duterte as Special Envoy to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia in 2019.

Last month, the Philippine government lifted the temporary suspension of the deployment of Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia.

The temporary deployment ban came following initial reports that Filipinos were being required by their employers to shoulder the cost of health and safety protocols for Covid-19 and insurance coverage premium upon entry to Saudi Arabia.

The cost of the institutional quarantine and insurance is reportedly 3,500 Saudi riyals, which is equivalent to PHP47,000.

Also in a phone conversation last month, Duterte and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud renewed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral relations, including in trade and investments, and intensify the cooperation in migrant workers’ rights.

In December 2020, Duterte congratulated the King and described Saudi Arabia’s Labor Reform Initiative as a landmark initiative seen to benefit migrant workers in the Gulf state, including OFWs. (PNA)

 

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