Welcome change for distressed OFWs: OWWA Releases PhP500-M Relief Assistance to distressed OFWs in Saudi

saudi ofws for changeMigrante-KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), an alliance of various Filipino groups in Saudi Arabia, welcomed the announcement of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s PhP500 Million Relief Assistance Program (RAP) for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their families.

In a recent Memorandum of Instruction, OWWA announced an emergency financial assistance to each affected worker who are still at jobsite – Php20,000 (equivalent to SAR 1,590/-) to stranded and distressed OFWs and Php6,000 to their families back home.

Marlon Gatdula, Migrante KSA Western Region Chairperson stressed “that this relief assistance is very timely in light of thousands of OFWs in various construction companies who are not receiving their salaries and benefits.  And OWWA’s usual stance of turning a deaf ear to the plight of OFWs hopefully will finally end.”

“This is a welcome change indeed, a breath of fresh air that can only be attributed to the ascendance of President Rodrigo Duterte to the national government and the persistency of Migrante and its affiliate organizations in fighting for the rights and welfare of OFWs,” Gatdula added.

However, only OFWs in the following companies are listed as beneficiaries of OWWA’s Relief Assistance Program as stated in the Memorandum:

  1. Saudi bin Laden Grup of Companies
  2. Saudi Oger Ltd.
  3. Mohammed al-Mojil Group
  4. Mohammad Hameed Al-Bargash & Bros. Trading & Construction Co.
  5. Alumco LLC
  6. Rajeh H. Al Merri Contracting & Trading Co.
  7. Fawzi Salah Al Nairani Contracting Co.
  8. Arabtec Construction LLC
  9. Real Estate Development & Investment Co.

Thus, Migrante Western Region begs to question “the limited scope of beneficiaries and demand OWWA to include other OFWs whose employers and/or sponsors are not on the list but were likewise affected by the situation in Saudi Arabia,” Gatdula asserts.

Migrante chapters in KSA has a growing list of affected OFWs in manpower suppliers or sub-contractors of the companies listed in the Memorandum, as wells as other small employers who are not providing the salaries and benefits to the worker, such as SMASCO, Al-Aman Contracting and Alzeeme in Jeddah, SMACO in Al-Khobar and Fiberglass Factory in Rabigh, among others.

Furthermore, Migrante KSA urged OWWA officials in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Khobar to “immediately visit the affected OFWs at their jobsites to gather the required documentation and enable the OFWs to avail of the program, in accordance with the Memorandum.”

Gatdula also said that the emergency financial assistance should not be dependent on OWWA membership, as had been the practice of the OWWA in past. “It will be unfair and divisive to the OFWs and their families. Because of their stranded status, majority of them are undocumented (no iqamas) and therefore have been rendered stripped off their active OWWA memberships. If active OWWA membership is a pre-requisite, close to none will be able to avail.”

“We also reiterate that while the emergency financial assistance is a welcome development, it is only one of the demands put forth by stranded OFWs and their families,” Gatdula added.

Last July 20, Migrante International in Manila submitted a briefer on the situation of stranded OFWs to DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello before he embarked to Saudi Arabia. Elaborated in the briefer are the following demands:

  1. Negotiate with employers for the payment of unpaid wages and benefits, and issuance of exit visas of stranded OFWs.
  2. Emergency mass repatriation of stranded OFWs. Government should shoulder immigration penalties and other costs related to repatriation.
  3. Provide legal assistance and other support for distressed OFWs who filed labor cases, and facilitate the provision of subsistence allowances and mandatory insurance benefits through OFWs’ recruitment agencies.
  4. Ban the deployment of OFWs to bankrupt and crisis-ridden companies.
  5. Emergency financial assistance to all distressed OFWs and their families.
  6. Speedy resolution of cases of repatriated OFWs lodged at the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) and NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission).
  7. Comprehensive reintegration program for returned and returning OFWs. ###

Reference:

Marlon Gatdula, Chairperson, Migrante Western Region KSA Chapter

(Migrante WRKSA), Contact No.: +966543452289

 Dhel Macalintal, Spokesperson, Migrante Al-Khobar KSA Chapter

Contact No.: +966551977512

 Mario Ben, Chairperson, Migrante Saudi Arabia Chapter

Contact No.: +966557267069

 Faisal Muhammad Torres, Chairperson, Migrante Al-Khobar KSA Chapter

Contact No.: +966541073001

 Don Berlin Borbe, Chairperson, Migrante Riyadh KSA Chapter

Contact No.: +966541073001

 Garry Martinez, Chairperson, Migrante International

Contact No: 0939-3914418

 

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