Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in Saudi Arabia need not worry about their welfare there as King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has pledged to extend assistance, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Wednesday.
Bello said the King instructed his Ministry of Labor to facilitate the process of providing welfare assistance for the stranded OFWs.
He added that the King's directive consisted of waiving immigration penalties due to their expired working visas, plane fare for OFWs returning to the Philippines, food aid, re-employment assistance, and legal assistance.
"We immensely express our gratitude to King Salman for his concern to our OFWs," Bello said.
Some 9,000 to 11,000 OFWs are currently out of job and stranded in Saudi Arabia due to a massive layoff triggered by a slump in oil prices.
Bello said the instruction not only guarantees the protection of OFWs, but also other foreign workers in Saudi Oger and other companies affected by falling oil prices.
"This is a welcome development and, indeed, a big help in our ongoing efforts to secure the welfare of our OFWs," he said.
Assistance to OFWs
Meanwhile, Bello said King Salman has informed that the Saudi government will shoulder the airfare for OFWs affected by the massive layoff and retrenchment who wish to return to the Philippines.
Aside from food aid, legal assistance from the Ministry of Labor will also be given to OFWs in the company camps to gather money claims and other legal complaints.
Bello said Labor Ministry Director General Mohammed Al Sharekh informed the POLO that OFWs no longer need to proceed at the Saudi Labor Office since labor officers will proceed to the camps to receive the cases.
Bello added OFWs who seek other employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia will be assisted by the ministry through the Mega Manpower Companies.
"We were also informed that the Ministry of Labor will allow the transfer of workers to other companies should they wish to continue working in KSA. The workers may look for new employers, and the good thing is the Ministry of Labor will mobilize the Mega Manpower Companies to offer jobs to workers," he said.
The statement said an inter-agency emegency relief assistance mission — composed of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Health, Social Welfare and Development, Technical Education and Skills Authority, and the Public Attorney's Office — has been organized by the government to support the three POLOs in Saudi Arabia.
Bello is set to return to Saudi Arabia next week to oversee the mission together with Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III and Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac.
Meanwhile, DOLE personnel, POEA lawyers, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration officers, and TESDA training personnel were deployed in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al Khobar to assist the implementation of the Relief Assistance Program giving food, medicines, and cash assistance to OFWs in their camps and shelters. —Joseph Tristan Roxas/KBK, GMA News