Duterte meets Saudi prince in Malacañang

Pia Ranada
Duterte meets Saudi prince in Malacañang
The meeting takes place amid President Duterte's warning that he will expand his OFW deployment ban in Kuwait to other Middle Eastern countries

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed Saudi Arabian Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif as his guest in Malacañang on Monday, March 19.

The Prince’s visit to the Palace happens on the last day of his trip to the Philippines.

The two spoke mainly about economic cooperation, security cooperation, and promotion of overseas Filipino workers’ rights.

“The President said there is need to expand cooperation across many fields, especially in security, trade, and investment, as well as in promoting the rights, safety, and well-being of Filipinos,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a message to reporters.

Prince Abdulaziz, who is also interior minister of Saudi Arabia, arrived in Malacañang at around 2 pm. His visit began with his signing the Palace guestbook, a tradition observed for high-profile guests.

This was proceeded by a meeting with President Duterte during which they discussed the end of the Marawi crisis.

The Prince conveyed King Salman of Saudi Arabia’s “deep respect” for Duterte’s “strong and decisive action that led to the liberation of Marawi from extremists and terrorists.”

The Philippine President, meanwhile, “reaffirmed the commitment of the Philippines to defeat and break the backbone of terrorism and violent extremism,” said Roque.

Duterte also hosted a luncheon for the Prince where they talked about “issues of mutual importance, particularly in law enforcement, peace and order, and security,” said Roque.

It’s not clear how detailed their discussions were on the maltreatment of OFWs in the Middle East.

Duterte has been adamant about countries in that region improving the treatment of overseas Filipino workers, particularly domestic helpers, after the discovery of the frozen body of OFW Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait. (READ: ‘A national shame’: The death and homecoming of Joanna Demafelis)

After seeing photos of Demafelis’ corpse and the scarred bodies of other Filipina domestic workers, Duterte ordered a ban on deployment of OFWs to Kuwait  and said he is contemplating expanding the ban to over other Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is among the major employers of OFWs in the world and has the largest overseas Filipino population in the Middle East. – Rappler.com


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.