President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to put up hospitals for overseas filipino workers (OFWs) in countries where they work.
The President, fresh from a weeklong state visit in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar which host at least one million OFWs, said establishing hospitals for Filipinos working abroad is a small token in return for the huge remittances that they send home that help keep the Philippine economy afloat. Last year, OFWs remitted $7.5 billion.
“What the OFWs need is a hospital. Many of them want to go home or are in need of medical attention. They are asking me for a hospital, so I will…we will look for the money and I will ask their (host countries’) permission to establish even just a small, a general hospital to cater to all the health needs of our countrymen,” Duterte said.
“A hospital would just be a fraction of the OFWs’ huge contribution to the country. It is important that we repay them with a hospital,” he added.
The President also gave assurances that distressed OFWs will be repatriated on a daily basis.
“I promise you that. We will do it everyday. We will have to spend money. I will look for the money. I will give you primary importance,” Duterte said.
The President said his three-country swing in the Middle East was productive, having secured $925 million investments deals.
“This is the most productive trip ever. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar were more than willing really to help the Filipinos. It is the national interest of the Republic of the Philippines that we maintain more than just good relationship with these countries,” he said.
Duterte considers the Middle East as a region of great importance to the Philippines because it hosts a huge number of Filipinos and is a partner for the Philippines’ energy needs and an emerging source of broader two way-trade and investments.
“We agreed that it is in the interest of both our nations to uphold the welfare and well-being of Filipino workers.
This is an area of partnership that we are keen on making greater strides,” Duterte said.
“Whenever I talk to heads of state, I stressed that there is very much at stake here and that we want their nation to be stable, trouble-free and a good neighbor for everybody,” he added.
The President flew back to the Philippines on Sunday, bringing with him 138 OFWs stranded in the Middle East because of unresolved issues with their employers.
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said her department will provide assistance to the OFWs as part of the administration’s Sagip Sundo program.
Field offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development will assess the condition of each OFW and they will be provided assistance “depending on their circumstances.”
S”[W]e’re now in the process of referring them to concerned DSWD Field Offices in the different regions so they can be provided with the appropriate services and interventions,” Taguiwalo said in a statement. “We hope to provide our newly-returned [OFWs] with timely assistance and to help them start their new lives in the Philippines.”
WITH DEMPSEY REYES