• Ople: Probe impact of cheaper oil on OFWs

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    Both Houses of Congress on Friday were urged to conduct an inquiry into adverse effects of falling oil prices on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East and the private recruitment industry.

    In pushing for the probe, OFW advocate and senatorial aspirant Susan Ople on Friday noted that the world price of oil recently fell below the $30/barrel benchmark for the first time in 12 years, which according to a CNN report, represents a 72 percent drop from levels just 18 months ago.

    The former labor undersecretary issued this call in light of a report from a local recruitment firm, Profile Overseas Manpower Services Inc., that a Saudi Arabian company has informed over 50 recently deployed workers of termination of their work contracts.

    The company that deals with oil and gas services said its contract with the government will no longer push through, hence the notice of termination.

    Another recruitment agency, LBS Recruitment Solutions, said a construction company in Qatar had also informed the agency that it would no longer need Filipino workers because its multi-billion engineering project has been put on hold by the Qatari government.

    Ople said as oil prices fall, Riyadh has announced a series of economic reforms that include budget cuts and austerity measures.

    Private recruitment agencies that service Middle East companies that thrive on government contracts may find themselves in a bind since under current rules of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, these agencies can be held answerable for contract violations by the employers.

    “If a company in the Middle East lays off a significant [number]of Filipino workers because its projects have been put on hold by the government, what would be the protocols to be followed by our labor attaches and private recruitment agencies to ensure that the rights of these workers would be protected? This is a new frontier and there has to be tripartite consultations to come up with proper guidelines and clearer rules,” Ople said.

    The current downturn in the Saudi Arabian economy is prompted by its policy of maintaining market share by outlasting competitors in the United States, Canada, Iran and other oil-producing countries.

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