August 15, 2016
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center commended the Duterte administration for its all-out assistance to thousands of stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia.
The Ople Center noted that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III is set to leave for Saudi Arabia today with a 40-man delegation to include representatives of the Philippine recruitment industry and a team of medical doctors from the Department of Health, to tend to the needs of the stranded OFWs.
According to Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad Jr, the delegation would include six labor attaches from the labor department for legal assistance, a 12-man mission from the Department of Health to include doctors, nurses and psychologists, 8 social workers from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, three lawyers from the DoJ’s Public Assistance Office, among other delegation members.
“Never have we seen a multi-agency caravan of government workers headed en masse for Saudi Arabia to help our distressed overseas workers. For this, we have President Duterte and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to thank,” Susan Ople, head of the policy center said.
She said that the intervention of His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud paves the way for the repatriation or transfer of stranded Filipino workers.
“The challenge is really in coming up with a database of all affected workers. A single, authoritative database would make it easier for the Saudi government to help our stranded OFWs,” she said.
News about the multi-agency caravan has lifted the spirits of thousands of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia. “They are very grateful because some of them have been stranded in Saudi Arabia for more than a year. Many of them look forward to getting their back wages and finally, coming home to their families,” Susan Ople said.
Ople noted that Php1.5 billion in reintegration funds for returning OFWs has been included in the proposed 2017 budget. “This is again, unprecedented in the history of overseas employment. Change is truly here.”