A piece of good news about the ongoing repatriation assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) was announced yesterday by Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III after he thanked Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for instructing his Ministry of Labor to facilitate in providing welfare assistance to OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
“We immensely express our gratitude to King Salman for his concern to our OFWs,” Bello said, as he relayed the update from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh.
The King’s instruction consist of waiving of immigration penalties due to expired working visa, plane fare to OFWs returning to the country, food aid, re-employment assistance to those who wish to work in other companies, and legal assistance to money claims.
Bello said the Saudi government’s Ministry of Labor has confirmed the King’s instruction to guarantee and protect the rights of foreign workers in Saudi Oger and other companies affected by oil crisis.
“This is a welcome development and, indeed, a big help in our ongoing efforts to secure the welfare of our OFWs,” said Bello.
Filipino workers stranded in Saudi Arabia can now return to the country as King Salman has waived the penalties for foreign workers hit by a massive layoff and retrenchment. The Saudi government will shoulder their plane fare.
Food will be provided by the Saudi government to workers in all company camps, and the Ministry of Labor will send its lawyers to camps to gather money claims and other related complaints for filing at appropriate venues.
“We were also informed that the Ministry of Labor will allow the transfer of workers to other companies should they wish to continue working in KSA. The workers may look for new employers, and the good thing is the Ministry of Labor will mobilize the Mega Manpower Companies to offer jobs to workers,” Secretary Bello said.
The KSA’s Ministry of Labor Director General Mohammed Al Sharekh, according to the Secretary, informed the POLO in Riyadh that the Saudi Labor Officers will officially receive cases at the camps instead of requiring thousands of workers to file the case at the Saudi Labor Office building.
It can be recalled that one of the setbacks encountered by OFWs was when their work permits expired after they were retrenched by companies that went bankrupt because of oil crisis in the Middle East.
An inter-agency emergency relief assistance mission, composed of Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Public Attorney’s Office, has been organized by the Philippine Government to support the ongoing operations of three Philippine Overseas Labor Offices in KSA.
DOLE Secretary Bello will return next week to Saudi Arabia, together with Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III and POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, to oversee the assistance mission operation.
DOLE officers, consisting of labor attaches, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration lawyers, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration welfare officers, and training personnel from TESDA, were divided into three teams for simultaneous deployment in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al Khobar. They will assist in the implementation of the Relief Assistance Program and provide support in the distribution of food, medicines, and cash assistance to OFWs in the company camps and shelters.