President Rodrigo Duterte (MNS Photo

MANILA, May 6 (Mabuhay) –President Rodrigo Duterte had a telephone conversation with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday on COVID-19 response, rights of Filipino workers in the kingdom, and other matters of mutual concern, Malacañang said Thursday.

During the call, both Duterte and Mohammed agreed on the need to ramp up cooperation to address the pandemic, the Palace said in a statement. The President previously called for global efforts to ensure availability of safe and effective vaccines to developing nations such as the Philippines.

Duterte also thanked Saudi Arabia for including Filipinos in the kingdom’s COVID-19 vaccination program while Mohammed said that all Filipinos in his country will be inoculated.

Mohammed also assured Duterte that Saudi Arabia was “fully resolved to do its part in protecting and upholding the rights of Filipino workers in the kingdom,” the Palace said.

“For his part, President Duterte recognized Saudi Arabia’s efforts to ensure that the rights, welfare and well-being of Filipinos in the kingdom are protected and upheld, including recent efforts aimed at labor reform,” it added.

Duterte demanded the abolition of the kafala or sponsorship system in the Middle East, calling it “unjust and exploitative” during a virtual labor forum last month.

On the economic front, Mohammed said efforts would continue to increase Saudi Arabia’s investments into the Philippines.

“President Duterte welcomed the Crown Prince’s recognition of bolstering economic engagement as an important part of Philippines-Saudi Arabia relations that needs to be sustained,” the Palace said.

The Philippines and Saudi Arabia established diplomatic relations in 1969. (MNS)

READ NEXT: Sotto to Duterte critics: Do you want to negotiate or go to war with China?