The government is ready to put in place measures to help Filipino workers in the Middle East who may be displaced because of sliding oil prices, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. gave the assurance after migrant worker groups warned against the possibility of mass retrenchment of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia because of the economic situation in that country, where at least 2.3 million Filipinos are working.
Quoting Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Coloma said the government has not monitored any major retrenchment activity that could possibly affect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries in the region.
He added that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) “is prepared to assist workers [who]may be affected in securing alternative employment and livelihood opportunities.”
“DOLE is confident that OFWs will continue to be employed under existing contracts.
Even in light of the previously announced policy on ‘Saudization,’ there was no apparent effect on the level of employment of OFWs as they have proved to be highly qualified and competitive,” the Palace official said.
Susan Ople, former labor undersecretary and current head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, said they received a report from a local recruitment firm, Profile Overseas Manpower Services Inc., that a company in Saudi Arabia plans to terminate 50 workers.
“The Saudi company that deals with oil and gas services said its contract with the government will no longer push through, hence the notice of termination,” Ople added.
She said LBS Recruitment Solutions reported that a Qatar-based construction company said it no longer needs OFWs “because its multi-billion engineering project has been put on hold by the Qatari government.”
The same observation was noted by Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Monterona.
“Due to the Kingdom’s budget cuts and other austerity measures, government projects including infrastructure and the development of various economic cities were also impacted. Some of these projects have been delayed and some have been temporarily stopped. Hence, there are OFWs and other country nationals working for private construction firms who have received termination notice of their work contract,” he said.
As of 2014, data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show that 885,541 land-based OFWs were deployed in the Middle East, most of them to Saudi Arabia.