176 more stranded OFWs repatriated from Saudi Arabia
JEDDAH – Close to 200 Filipino workers retrenched from Saudi Oger were finally on their way home after months of being stranded in Saudi Arabia, with hopes that they would receive their unpaid salaries before Christmas.
The OFWs — 176 all in all — left Jeddah via a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight on Monday midnight and were expected to arrive in Manila on Tuesday afternoon, according to Labor Attache Jainal T. Rasul Jr.
Consul General Imelda Panolong said the airfares of the OFWs were shouldered by the Saudi Arabian government.
"Etong lahat ng uuwi ngayong gabi ay galing sa Saudi government. Eto 'yung under ng Royal Order ng hari," Panolong said in an interview prior to the departure of the OFWs.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has pledged assistance, including airfare, to the thousands of foreign workers displaced by oil crisis in the Middle East.
Panolong said a total of 264 OFWs have already been repatriated with the help of the Saudi government.
The latest batch of OFWs who were repatriated were accompanied to the airport by Philippine officials led by Panolong and Rasul and will be met at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) staff led by its new administrator Hans Leo Cacdac.
One of the repatriates, Redentor Selis, who has been working in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, said they only learned about their flight on the last minute.
"Hapon lang po namin nalaman na uuwi na kami ngayong gabi kaya nataranta kami at nagkumahog na mag-empake ng aming mga gamit, pero masaya na kami," he said.
Most of the OFWs interviewed by GMA News said they are hoping that they would receive their unpaid salaries and end-of-service benefits before Christmas so they would have something to spend for their family.
Some 9,000 to 11,000 Filipinos in Saudi Arabia lost their jobs due to downsizing implemented by large construction firms there amid the oil crisis. —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News