RIYADH: The Philippine government has stepped in to help Filipinos going without pay at Saudi Oger with SR40 million immediate financial assistance.
Newly elected President Rodrigo R. Duterte sent a high-profile team that comprised Atty. Guiling Mamondiong, new chief of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA); Silvestre Bello III, labor secretary; and John Bertiz, Acts-OFW partylist Congressman.
“We are here to learn your real status and I don’t want to get doctored information ... Don’t be shy in telling us your problems,” Bello said at Saudi Oger on Friday.
Bello arrived here Friday bringing with him the P500 million aid. Each OFW will get P20,000 (SR1,667) plus P6,000 (SR500) for his family back home.
“Do you eat three times a day?” Bello asked his compatriots. Looking at the embassy staff, he said: “We are not taking care of our heroes,” giving a clear message.
He said: “I am also here to convey the sincere thanks of the president,” he said. “Your landline vote gave the president victory.”
The team also pledged to help OFWs’ children back home to continue their studies.
Speaking on his part, Mamondiong emphasized the important role of the TESDA in facilitating vocational and technical training to be conducted for the improvement of workers’ qualifications to raise their working status to a higher level.
“This is one of the reintegration programs being featured including livelihood and micro-businesses beneficial to the returning expatriates,” he observed, saying that the OFW must not return home without a job.
“The reaction of OFWs could have been described as the best gift and miracle that ever happened to them in their history as expatriates, when they received DOLE Secretary Bello together during the face-to-face dialogue with the Saudi Oger workers and Filipino community leaders, held at their camps,” said Saidali Malic, the Duterte Middle East Movement secretary.
He said, their happiness and relief could not be described upon hearing the good news from Bello that they are here for a special rescue mission to hear personally and sincerely address the controversial issues facing them for months without proper assistance received from the Philippine Embassy.
He continued that this is in addition to repatriation procedures, including their plane tickets, and legal assistance to claim their unpaid salaries and other entitlements. OFWs felt the sincerity of the government initiative and prove their worth of being modern day heroes after receiving this attention.
Other OFWs raised the important issue and urge the government to hire embassy officials who are Arabic speakers, and preferably from the OFWs themselves because they know and understand their concerns more than others.
A senior ISO system auditor, Gilbert G. Alarcon, at Dar Alriyadh Consultants said: “We cannot blame our host government for this unfortunate and unintended predicament as they themselves are greatly affected by their current economic recession.”
He said, transforming KSA from government-driven into a privately driven economy may be a sound solution but normally requires more time to implement. And the resulting vacuum is simply too much for all expatriate workers to bear, as it affects more than 11,000 Filipinos.