RIYADH // Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte met with King Salman on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, where economic troubles forced the repatriation of thousands of Filipinos who are still waiting for their salaries.
Saudi Arabia is Mr Duterte’s first stop on a week-long Gulf tour that will also take in Bahrain and Qatar. He arrived in the kingdom on Monday night.
King Salman hosted the Philippine president for lunch in the capital, Riyadh, on Tuesday and the two sides signed a number of memorandums, including some dealing with labour, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. It did not disclose further details about the memorandums, which were signed in the first ever meeting between the two men.
Philippine organisations in the kingdom said the unpaid wages would be on the agenda when they met with Mr Duterte during his two-day trip to Riyadh. Saudi Arabia still hosts about 800,000 workers from the South-East Asian nation.
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The issue of unpaid wages is included in a petition that Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia planned to present to Mr Duterte during his trip, said Florante Catanus, vice president of the All Filipino Community and Sports Commission umbrella group.
The sharp fall in global oil prices since 2014 led to a Saudi budget deficit of US$79 billion (Dh290.2bn) last year, with the government owing billions to private companies it had contracted, chiefly in the building industry.
"So many Filipinos were laid off. So they were sent home and they were not able to get money," said Mr Catanus. He said more than 5,000 workers were repatriated and were still owed back wages.
Saudi officials have taken legal action on behalf of the unpaid workers from the Philippines and other Asian countries to try to recover their wages, even if the workers have returned to their homelands.
Ahead of Mr Duterte’s trip, Philippine assistant foreign secretary Hjayceelyn Quintana said workers’ welfare would be a focus of the president’s talks with King Salman, King Hamad of Bahrain and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, emir of Qatar.
In addition to discussing labour issues, Mr Duterte said his visit to Saudi Arabia would also address ways to broaden cooperation in trade, investments, security, energy and anti-narcotics.
More than 1 million Filipinos reside and work in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.
SOURCE ► WBP
SOURCE ► WBP