Duterte hails Saudi removal of restrictions on foreign laborers

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President Rodrigo Duterte on November 23, 2020, welcomed the decision of Saudi Arabia to remove key restrictions tying migrant workers to their employers.

President Rodrigo Duterte engages in a conversation with His Royal Majesty King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during the bilateral meeting held at His Majesty’s private residence in Rawdhat Khuraim on April 11, 2017. (Presidential photo)

Saudi Arabia earlier launched the Labor Reform Initiative (LRI) to benefit around a third of Saudi Arabia’s total population or approximately 10 million foreign workers in the kingdom.

In a statement from the Office of the President, Duterte described the initiative as “a major labor reform program” that will benefit migrant workers, including almost 800,000 Filipinos.

The LRI, which is slated to come into effect on March 14, 2021, makes three changes to Saudi Arabia’s labor laws.

Under the LRI, foreign workers will be allowed to transfer to another employer without the current employer’s consent upon contract expiration.

The LRI will also allow foreign workers to travel outside the Kingdom without their employer’s approval and allow them to leave the Kingdom without their employer’s consent upon contract expiration.

Duterte recognized the LRI as “a significant step towards addressing concerns over the traditional sponsorship regime that exists in most parts of the Middle East”.

He congratulated His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for the landmark initiative.

Duterte likewise renewed his commitment to continue working closely with His Majesty the King to further strengthen cooperation in fields of mutual interest, including the promotion of the rights and welfare of Filipinos in the Kingdom.

He earlier expressed the same commitment in his meeting with His Majesty the King during his state visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2017.

Duterte also assured that the Philippines remains committed to the advancement of migrant workers’ rights and welfare.

He said the country will continue to strongly advocate for and work with all partners for the immediate fulfillment of the objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM).

Under Saudi Arabia’s current labor system, workers had little power to escape abuse because their employers controlled their exit from the country and their ability to change jobs.

These reforms are part of “Vision 2030” spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to make the kingdom more attractive to foreign investors, expand the private sector, and diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy. (Azer Parrocha, PNA)

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