President Rodrigo Duterte will leave for the Middle East today for a weeklong state visit that aims to secure good working conditions for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Labor Secretary Silverstre Bello 3rd said Sunday.
Bello, who will be joining the President in his visits to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, said bilateral agreements concerning OFWs will be signed, as well as the facilitation of the amnesty program of the Saudi Arabian government to undocumented OFWs.
Duterte will be meeting Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
“We are going for a bilateral agreement with these countries concerning our household service workers (HSWs). We are eyeing fixed minimum salary rate for HSWs, insurance coverage, securing a day off and fixed working hours,” Bello said in a phone interview with The Manila Times.
The Middle East is the Philippines’ second largest source of remittances. Filipinos working there sent $7.5 billion in 2016.
Bello expects Duterte’s visit to expedite the processing of Saudi Arabia’s amnesty program process for undocumented Filipinos.
There are at least 5,000 OFWs who are qualified for the amnesty program which allows then to leave Saudi Arabia without any penalties.
Those eligible for the amnesty program will be given free plane tickets to the Philippines by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
“At least 5,000 could be covered by the amnesty, although not all of them could avail of it since some of them have found new jobs. But for those who will be availing of the amnesty, they could get a fortune. A lot of them have not been getting their salary for nine months to as long as two years, and they will be paid per month. That is on top of their end of service or separation payment,” Bello said.
“I have already deployed an augmentation team for their application for amnesty claims, but of course, there will be a screening process. We want to ensure that nobody in their ranks has been recruited by ISIS or any other terror group,” he added.