THE government has intensified efforts to bring home distressed Filipino workers with the repatriation yesterday of a fresh batch of OFWs from Saudi Arabia.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III led officials in flying home 117 female wards from the Philippine halfway house in Riyadh.
“The repatriation of this new batch of OFWs from Saudi Arabia is pursuant to the desire of President Duterte to bring home our workers,” Bello said. The labor chief also said the government is set to repatriate more still housed in the Bahay Kalinga in the Middle East.
Aside from the cash assistance provided by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the returning workers were also welcomed by officers of the Coalition of Licensed Agencies for Domestic and Service Workers (CLADS), the biggest country-specific organization of recruitment agencies, the Philippine Recruitment Agencies Accredited to Saudi Arabia (PRAASA) and the Overseas Placement Association of the Philippines (OPAP) who gave each worker additional cash of P1,000 and bags of groceries for their families.
CLADS counts as members agencies with deployment in 22 countries with concentration in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The group has deployed over six million workers in the last three years.
Both CLADS and OPAP support the President’s move to create a new department for overseas workers. “We are fully behind President Duterte in according better protection for our overseas workers through the proposed new department,” CLADS president Lucila Sermonia said.
The repatriates had been staying for months at the Bahay Kalinga of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh. Most of them ran away from their employers.
Their repatriation was facilitated by the POLO following the settlement of the cases with their respective employers and Saudi recruitment agencies. They were issued exit passes by the Immigration Office of KSA.
OWWA provided for the return tickets of the repatriates and provided P5,000 each in cash assistance. Livelihood assistance is also available for qualified returning workers.
All repatriates received immediate assistance from OWWA including airport assistance, psycho-social counseling/stress debriefing and medical referral. They were also assured of sustained assistance in claiming their unpaid monetary claims, as well as in finding alternative employment or in engaging in chosen livelihood undertakings.
The labor chief meanwhile disclosed the purpose of his visit in KSA, which is about the full settlement of the P4.2 billion unclaimed wages and monetary claims of almost 9,000 workers who were repatriated back in August 2016.
“I personally talked to KSA Minister of Labor and Deputy Minister of Justice about the unpaid claims of our repatriated OFWs in 2016 and they promised to prioritize its full settlement,” Bello said.