May 28, 2021
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center urged the labor department to exempt Saudi-bound migrant workers whose forein employers are willing to shoulder the costs of COVID19 protocols set by the Saudi government.
Susan Ople, head of the policy center, noted that these workers already went through the hiring process and have overseas employment certificates (OECs) issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) as well as working visas issued by the Saudi embassy.
The Ople Center is a non-government organization that assists distressed overseas Filipino workers. It is named after the former Senate President and Foreign Secretary Blas Ople, acknowledged father of OFWs.
“We appeal to Labor Secretary Bello to exempt OFWs with kind-hearted employers who committed to pay for the additional costs of deployment due to Saudi Arabia’s quarantine and swab testing requirements from the temporary ban. Since their employers are willing to pay the additional costs and all the POEA requirements have already been complied with, why not let these OFWs leave so they can help provide for their families’ needs?” she said.
Ople noted that Saudi Arabia’s health protocols for migrant workers would increase the usual deployment costs by $900, too high for many OFWs. But there are Saudi employers willing to pay that cost in order to employ Filipino workers, according to recruitment industry associations.
“We are referring here to skilled workers, who are the breadwinners of the family. It would be so unfortunate if they lose the chance to earn a good salary despite having an employer willing to defray the costs of COVID19 health protocols in Saudi Arabia because of this blanket temporary ban,” she said.
Industry leaders made a similar appealed to allow workers with working visas to leave the country on condition that their recruitment agencies submit a duly-notarized document confirming the employers’ willingness to shoulder the ticket, COVID19 health insurance and facility quarantine in Saudi Arabia.
Industry leaders Raquel Bracero, of PASEI, and Arnold Mamaclay, of PEACEME, said the exemptions can also be applied to workers already selected for hiring in Saudi Arabia but have yet to be approved for a visa, provided that their recruitment agencies give the government a notarized undertaking that the costs of the worker’s entry requirement and quarantine protocols would be shouldered by their Saudi employers.
“We appeal to DoLE and the POEA to initiate tripartite consultations with stakeholders from both the private sector and civil society to discuss this and other matters related to COVID19 health protocols,” the Ople Center said.
Ople said that it is also important for government and recruitment as well as manning agencies to meet and discuss a unified vaccination program for all OFWs set to leave the country now that the IATF re-categorized outbound OFWs for deployment within the next 4 months from the intended date of vaccination as belonging to Priority Group A1.
“This re-categorization is good news for our OFWs and their foreign employers abroad. It provides hope that working abroad is now a valid economic option as long as health protocols here and in destination countries are observed. We do need to come up with a clear vaccination plan to ensure transparency and inclusiveness,” she said.