300 OFWs barred from leaving Saudi Arabia due to unpaid debts
JEDDAH — Some 300 stranded Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia have been barred from leaving the Kingdom due to unpaid debts.
One of them, Darney Dupitas, said he was not aware of any pending debt worth 12,000 SAR until he applied for an exit visa.
In an interview with GMA News, Dupitas said he took a 3,000 SAR (more or less P30,000) loan—to be paid in six months and with a 200 SAR interest—in 2013, but learned recently that the loan was actually 10,000 SAR (more or less P100,000). The amount then ballooned to 17,000 SAR (over P200,000) because of interest.
"Nagulat na lang ako nang mag-file ako ng exit na hindi na ako ma-isyuhan ng exit visa dahil nga sa utang. Lumalabas na ang utang namin ay 17,000 at na-deduct sa akin at natira ay 12,000 kaya nga wala kami pambayad nyan," he said.
He added that a lending company offered them the loan and made them sign a document that was in Arabic.
Another OFW who refused to be identified said he has a 14,000 SAR debt that he only learned about recently.
"Nakapagbayad po ako ng 3,000 SAR tapos ang nakalista sa akin ay 17,000 SAR. Ili-less po ang 3, 000 kaya may babayaran pa akong 14,000 SAR. Ang sabi nung ahente na babae ay aayusin daw ang problema pero hanggang ngayon po ay wala pa ring nangyari," he said.
Vice Consul Alex Estomo, head of the Philippine Consulate's Assistance to Nationals, confirmed that some OFWs retrenched from Saudi Binladen Group are facing this problem.
He said Philippine officials have already visited the lending company in Taif, some two hours drive from Jeddah, and they were able to secure a list of OFWs who have outstanding debts.
He said they also learned that cases have been filed against the OFWs for their unpaid debts, resulting in the non-issuance of their exit visas.
"Ang salestalk ng dalawang Pilipina ay uutang lang sila ng 3,000 payable within six months. Ang pagkakamali lang po ng mga kababayan nating ito ay meron silang pinirmahang dokumento at ang problema ay hindi nila naintindihan kung ano yung nilalaman ng mga dokumentong ito ang lumalabas sa records ng lending company na ang kanilang principal amount na inutang ay 10,000 riyals," Estomo said.
"Ngayon mayroon din pong provision duon sa kontrata lumalabas na pag hindi nila nabayaran ang principal amount na kanilang hiniram ay may karagdagang interest ito kaya ang total na obligasyon ng mga kababayan natin ay umaabot ng 17,000 riyals," he added.
Estomo said it seems like the only way for the affected OFWs to get home is to pay their debts.
He also cautioned other OFWs against taking a loan from lending companies and against signing documents that they could not understand.
Francisco Candelario, another affected OFW, appealed to their loan agents to face them and help solve the problem.
"Kami matino naman kausap, pinagkatiwalaan ka namin, bakit ganoon ang ginawa mo sa akin, hindi lang ako hindi lang kami lima o sampu na niloko mo, umabot na kami ng hundreds, Pasalamat na lang po yung ibang kasamahan namin nakauwi pero kaming mga narito maawa ka naman kasi hindi lang ikaw naapektuhan ditto kund maging mga pamilya," he said. —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News