DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/06 Sept.) – At least 1,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will be repatriated from Saudi Arabia before the start of the six-day Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca on September 9 to 13 and another 1,000 before the end of this month, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.
Speaking in Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw, Bello said 228 OFWs had already arrived from Saudi Arabia and more are returning home in the coming days to fulfill the commitment to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to bring home all distressed Filipino workers who are maltreated and not paid by their employees.
Around 11,000 distressed OFWs have initially been identified to be repatriated but at least half of them have decided to stay and get other jobs, he said.
He said the President has allocated P249 million for the plane tickets of OFWs who want to go home but King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has committed to shoulder their repatriation.
This after Bello held a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Labor Minister last month, and the latter told him to take all the distressed Filipino workers back home.
He said OFWs in Saudia Arabia each received P20,000 while their families in the Philippines got P6,000 each.
He added the King has ordered all companies to release the salaries of the Filipino workers for seven to eight months that he estimated at P100 million.
Bello said most of the companies in Saudi Arabia are dependent on the services of these contractual workers.
“We talked to the companies there and they would always prefer Filipino workers than any other workers,” he said.
The Department of Labor and Employment will assist returning OFWs in getting domestic jobs while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will help them if they want to venture into their own businesses through its reintegration program.
“We will not bring in Filipinos and add to the number of unemployed. The reintegration program of OWWA will give them the opportunity to to work or set up business. OWWA funds is owned by the OFWs. The government has nothing to do with the OWWA funds,” Bello said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)