THE PHILIPPINES and Saudi Arabia will “work more closely together in bilateral and multilateral fora” to advance their labor reform and fair migration efforts, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said.

The two countries made the commitment during a meeting Sunday between Philippine Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert E. A. Borje and Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development Minister Ahmad Sulaiman Al Rajhi, the PCOO said in a press release.

During the meeting, Mr. Borje noted that President Rodrigo R. Duterte welcomed Saudi Arabia’s launching of the Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), saying it is a significant step towards addressing issues regarding the existing sponsorship system in the middle east country.

Mr. Borje also sought the Saudi minister’s support for other initiatives of Manila, including the ongoing repatriation program for Filipino workers whose employment had been affected by the coronavirus pandemic as well as efforts to further strengthen the Philippine’s diplomatic offices in the Kingdom.

There were about 2.2 million Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia as of 2019, based on Philippine Statistics Authority data.

The two officials will be working on a bilateral memorandum of understanding (MOU) on labor, which would be based on Saudi’s LRI.

“Both officials hope to see the convening of a technical working group on the details of the MOU on labor,” the PCOO said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza