Duterte, Saudi crown prince tackle Kafala system, workers’ welfare

Employees of the Nasser S. Al Hajri Corporation in Dammam, shown here arriving in Manila in May 2020 with assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs, are among the over 980,000 Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia. — DFA-OUMWA

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke on the phone Wednesday night where they discussed the welfare of Filipino workers in the Middle Eastern country and the Kafala system, according to the presidential palace.

Presidential Spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Thursday that Saudi Arabia is leading the campaign against the Kafala system.

“So the discussion was centered on that and how to strengthen the protection given to Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia,” he said in Filipino.

The Council on Foreign Relations defines the Kafala as a sponsorship mechanism that gives private employers almost total control over the migration and employment status of overseas workers.

Mr. Duterte last month described Kafala as “unjust and exploitative” and called for its abolition.

There are more than 983, 000 Filipinos workers in Saudi Arabia, according to the Labor department.

Mr. Roque said the two leaders also talked about viable ways to end the pandemic, noting that the two leaders agreed that a “system” must be created to ensure that poor and rich nations will have access to vaccines. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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