The Philippine government will send a two-man contingency team to Saudi Arabia and Yemen to assist Filipinos who wish to be repatriated home after a bombing at the border of the two countries a few days ago by Yemeni rebels, Malacañang said on Monday.
Quoting a statement from Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government will be deploying welfare officers as some Filipino workers based in Najran near the Saudi-Yemeni border asks the government to repatriate them.
“We can deploy ASAP our team of two welfare officers,” Coloma told reporters in a text message.
He made the statement in reaction to overseas Filipino worker (OFW) groups’ renewed calls for Manila to send a quick response team to the Saudi-Yemeni border after a Philippine community office near the southern border of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was hit by rebel bombs on January 5.
Quoting Blas Ople Center, The Manila Times reported on Friday that a certain ‘OFW center in Saudi Arabia was bombed.’
Susan Ople, president of the Blas Ople Policy Center, also told reporters in a media briefing that at least four OFWs have sought embassy assistance to leave Najran.
“The center referred their appeals for help to the POEA [Philippine Overseas Employment Administration] for appropriate action. According to a worker, their employer has agreed to let them go provided that he is paid back all the recruitment costs,” Ople said.
She added that her group has received reports that some other OFWs in Najran are seeking relocation to other areas in Saudi Arabia that remain peaceful.
Quoting information sourced from some workers in Najran, Ople said about 5,000 Filipinos in a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen have become vulnerable to the daily bombings that have increased from 15 to 80, including those carried out at nights as the Saudi Arabian army and Yemeni rebels intensify their attacks.
She urged the Philippine government to ban new hires from heading to Najran because of the city’s deteriorating security situation.
“We call on the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to work jointly and fast in declaring Najran a no-deployment zone, given the ongoing hostilities in the area,” Ople said.
The former labor undersecretary is running for a Senate seat in the 2016 Philippine elections.
She has asked the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment to provide assistance to four OFWs who are based in Najran and now seeking repatriation.
Ople said their employer has agreed to let them go home to the Philippines on the condition that they reimburse the company $1,500 (P70,668) each to cover the cost of their recruitment.