MIGRANT support groups pressured the government to immediately help starving and jobless Filipinos in Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of foreign workers, including Filipinos, have been reduced to begging for food after losing their jobs as a result of massive layoffs. Thousands of Filipinos were unable to go home because they have no money for a plane ticket.
John Monterona, convenor of the United Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (U-OFW), said about 11,000 Filipinos were laid off by nine big Saudi firms.
“We believe that President Duterte, who got a massive support from the OFWs during the elections, would want the OFWs to be back in the Philippines and be locally employed with decent wage and benefits, no longer separated from their families,” he said.
Charles Jose, assistant secretary and spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh is helping the troubled workers by constantly communicating with their employers.
“The most important assistance we’re extending is in terms of representation,” he said in a text message. “Our embassy is the one talking with the employers on behalf of retrenched OFWs for their end-of-service and other benefits.”
The DFA said it will lead an inter-agency Assistance to Nationals team that will be sent to Saudi Arabia on August 10 to provide immediate humanitarian, legal and other consular assistance to the OFWs, especially those without food and in dire need of medical care and other support services.
The delegation is composed of officials and technical staff from the DFA, Departments of Labor, Social Welfare and Health and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
A high-level delegation of senior government officials will also be sent to negotiate with their Saudi counterparts immediate and long-term solutions to the problem.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd met with Saudi Ambassador to Manila Dr. Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Bussairy last week to facilitate cooperation in resolving the plight of OFWs.
The ambassador assured the Philippine government that the Saudi government “will exert all efforts to assist the affected OFWs.”
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said it has begun releasing the financial assistance to affected OFWs in Saudi Arabia and their families in the Philippines under the Relief Assistance Program (RAP).
Under the program, the OFWs will receive cash assistance of P20,000 and P6,000 for their families.