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Saudi King provides P1.2 billion for stranded OFWs

In recognition of the great contribution of overseas Filipino workers to their economy, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has shouldered the expenses of OFWs who were laid off and stranded in the oil-rich country.

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Through the Saudi Arabia embassy to the Philippines, it announced on Thursday that King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has provided SR100,000,000, or P1.2 billion, for the OFWs’ housing, food, sanitary and health services, provision of free airline tickets to those who desire to be repatriated and for facilitation of new job opportunities.

The announcement was made a day after the Philippine and Saudi labor ministers made a joint announcement of their steps to repatriate thousands of stranded OFWs.

The Saudi embassy made it clear this was an unprecedented gesture of the Saudi monarch.

"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 stated.

There are 9,000 OFWs who lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia due to retrenchments plaguing construction companies amid an economic slowdown as oil prices plunged.

In a press conference, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the employers had no more capacity to pay the OFWs’ back wages, allowances and benefits, resulting to a massive retrenchment.

"Yung mga na lay-off gusto nila mag-stay doon para hintayin, mabigay sa kanila yung (Those who were laid-off preferred to stay until they receive their) back wages, allowances, and benefits)," Jose told the reporters, adding that the OFWs’ work permits got expired while they waited and the longer they stayed, the more penalties their employers need to pay.

Jose however said that the King of Saudi Arabia waived the expired working permits or "Iqamas" and the penalties.

He also said that the Philippine government also extended emergency, humanitarian, legal and consular assistance such as food and medical provisions to the stranded OFWs.

Jose also urged all stranded Filipinos to authorize the embassy and consulate there to collect on their behalf the unpaid wages, allowances and service benefits so they will be able to go back home soon.

"We're encouraging our OFWs to authorize the embassy and consulate to collect on their behalf their unpaid wages, allowances, and service benefits and other benefits so they can come home here," Jose said.

He also added that the government will provide public lawyers to help them with the legal process.

On Tuesday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III left for the KSA to assist the Filipinos laid-off and stranded there and bring the letter of gratitude from President Rodrigo Duterte to the King of Saudi Arabia for extending assistance to the stranded OFWs.

"The Royal embassy of Saudi Arabia assured all the friendly Filipino people of the ardent desire in general of the Saudi Government to secure all the rights and interests of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) residing in their second country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, while confirming at the same time the Kingdom's aspiration to strengthen bilateral relations that serve the common interests of the two friendly countries in all fields," the embassy stated.

 

source: Interaksyon

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