June 21, 2021
The Philippines and Saudi Arabia reaffirmed on Sunday the shared commitment to ramp up cooperation in protecting and upholding the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom and work together in addressing COVID-19 challenges as both nations sought to expand cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including trade and investments.
During the meeting between Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Waleed Abdulkarim Al-Khuraiji and Special Envoy of the President and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs (PAFA) Robert E.A. Borje, both officials underscored the importance of the special relations between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the need to transform ties to one that is “multi-dimensional”.
In the meeting, PAFA Borje personally turned over President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s letter for His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
The letter, according to Special Envoy Borje, contained President Duterte’s commitment to reinvigorate bilateral ties for the benefit of the two nations.
Key areas of transformative cooperation identified include countering terrorism and violent extremism, trade and investment, support for development in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), public health security, and cooperation in inter-regional and international fora.
The President likewise sought His Majesty the King’s support on specific assistance to national cases as well as ways to facilitate increased interaction and exchange between the Philippines and the Middle East.
In the letter, President Duterte acknowledged the Kingdom’s Labor Reform Initiative (LRI) as bold and visionary, paving the way for greater protection and improved welfare for all migrant workers in the Kingdom, including Household Service Workers (HSWs).
During the meeting, the Special Envoy renewed the Philippine government’s commitment to work closely with the Saud Arabia government in implementing the Kingdom’s labor reforms, hoping for its success and the inclusion of more vulnerable sectors of the Saudi Arabia labor market.
As mentioned in the letter, President Duterte likewise recognized His Majesty the King for arguing forcibly for universal access to life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, particularly for the developing world.
PAFA Borje cited President Duterte’s readiness to work with Saudi Arabia to improve access to vaccines to which the MOFA official said will be considered by the Saudi side.
Borje likewise thanked the Saudi Arabia government for including Filipinos in the Kingdom’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination program.
Also during the meeting, the Special Envoy expressed his gratitude to Saudi Arabia for its role in the peace and development efforts in Mindanao, particularly in BARMM.
Vice Minister Al-Khuraiji said that Saudi Arabia – as a friend and ally of the Philippines – hopes to see just and lasting peace and development in the Southern Philippines.
The Saudi Arabia official also welcomed the initiative to ramp up international cooperation for peace and development in BARMM and Marawi, and said that Saudi Arabia will consider a partnership for Mindanao development.
The two officials also agreed on the need to increase collaboration on tourism, with Vice Minister Al-Khuraiji recognizing the world-class potential of the Philippine tourism industry.
To ensure a larger diplomatic footprint of the Philippines in the Kingdom, Vice Minister Al-Khuraiji recognized the need to support the Philippines’ initiative to increase the Embassy and Consulate General officer and staff complement.
The meeting with the MOFA vice minister is a part of a series of activities included in Philippine delegation’s official visit to the Kingdom, anchored on President Duterte’s commitment to protect and promote the rights and welfare of OFWs across the world.
This is under the administration’s promise of Kalinga at Malasakit for OFWs, a key priority of the Duterte government.
Joining the presidential envoy during the meeting were Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto and Consul General Rommel Romato.
This is Borje’s second designation as Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia. He was previously appointed by the President as Special Envoy to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia in 2019. PND