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Overseas Filipino Workers

No letup in seeking unpaid wages of Saudi and NZ OFWs – Villanueva

Joel Villanueva

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, principal sponsor and author of the law that established the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), said that while the payment for the displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Saudi Arabia has slowly trickled, the government should continuously pursue the claims of the remaining Filipinos, including those who worked in other countries.

“This is a welcome development, but we need to ensure that all of our displaced Saudi OFWs are paid 100 percent of their back wages,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva pointed out that the release of the claims, which has been 10 years in the making, was given immediate action after President Bongbong Marcos and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met in November 2022.

“This does not include the period when some of our OFWs had to languish in makeshift tents for months, unable to come home because they did not have the financial means or did not have exit visas,” he said.

The Majority Leader asked the DMW and other concerned agencies to continue making representations with the Saudi government to facilitate the immediate release of the back wages and benefits of the affected OFWs.

He also said that the DMW should continue to assist the OFWs in completing the documents and other requirements, which has become cumbersome for some.

In a letter to Villanueva, DMW officer-in-charge Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac said checks were delivered from November to December 2023 for the first batch of 1,506 Filipinos who worked for the Saudi Oger firm.

The DMW has submitted to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development the names of 14,007 claimants. From this, a total of 10,554 OFWs were able to submit their Iqamas or Saudi residence permits for foreign hires.

The department said it is currently working on a memorandum of agreement with the Land Bank of the Philippines to assist the claimants of the checks.

Villanueva said that this early, the DMW should also consistently talk with the government of New Zealand over the layoff of some 700 OFWs in December. The workers lost their jobs when ELE, which is involved in the construction and manufacturing sector, closed down unannounced days before Christmas.

“We hope things are moving right now as we speak. We don’t want our OFWs from New Zealand to suffer the same fate of our Saudi workers who waited for 10 years,” Villanueva said.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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