Saudi king donates P1.2B for stranded foreign workers, including Pinoys
King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia has donated SR100,000,000 or P1.2 billion for the needs of Filipinos and other foreign workers who were affected by the massive retrenchment there triggered by the drop in oil prices.
A statement from the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Manila said King Salman donated the fund "in view of humanitarian consideration and keenness of the kingdom’s government in protecting the rights of foreign workers, including stranded overseas Filipino workers."
The money will cover food, medicine and housing for the stranded workers.
"This royal magnanimity is considered unique of its kind as no government of any state receiving foreign workers in the entire world in the past has shouldered this kind of burden resulting from deployment of foreign workers in companies in the private sector on the ground that these are private labor cases," the embassy said.
Meanwhile, Filipino and Saudi officials are working together to help thousands of stranded workers under a directive from King Salman, according Iric Arribas, charge d'affaires at the Philippine embassy, in a report by Agence France-Presse.
Arribas said the situation in the oil-rich country regarding foreign workers "has turned into a humanitarian crisis."
Workers were unable to renew their residency permits, meaning they could not leave the country and could not access their bank accounts, he said. Some living in company accommodation "did not have food."
King Salman earlier this month ordered various measures to help affected foreign workers. These include a waiver of penalties for expired work and residency permits, payment for flights home, and for food and accommodation when the employers were no longer meeting their obligations.
Lawyers hired by the Saudi government will handle claims for delayed salaries, even if workers leave the country.
Arribas said Philippines officials and the Saudi labor ministry are coordinating "to implement the general provisions of the directive from the king."
Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello on Wednesday thanked Salman for his help.
Bello, who met his Saudi counterpart Mufarrej al-Haqbani, handed over a letter of gratitude from President Rodrigo Duterte, Arribas said.
Before leaving for Saudi Arabia Bello told Philippines television that Duterte wants the workers back as soon as possible.
"The majority of them would like to go home" and perhaps return to work in the kingdom later, Arribas said.
The stranded Filipinos worked in a variety of jobs including engineering, technical and office positions. —GMA News with Agence France-Presse/KBK, GMA News