January 27, 2022
Earlier this afternoon during the first meeting of the year of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) presented the new Financial Relief Assistance Program (FRAP) for the thousands of Saudi OFWs who were displaced during the 2015 Saudi Crisis, forced to return to the Philippines and have billions worth of pending labor claims in the Saudi Labor Courts.
Migrante International Chairperson, Joanna Concepcion called on the Committee and OWWA to widen the scope of requirements to include many more OFWs who were affected but are currently not covered by the Program. Specifically to include OFWs who were forced to be repatriated in 2015 due to the economic crisis that affects their company in Saudi Arabia. The affected company did not able to provide them with their wages for several months including their end of service benefits.
“The FRAP only covers those who returned to the Philippines between 2016-2019 but many of our Saudi OFWs were displaced and repatriated as early as 2015 and there are those who still remain in Saudi and made the choice not to return home after they were terminated because they wanted to continue fighting for payment of their unpaid wages and benefits. They should not be excluded from applying and availing financial relief because they too were affected.” Concepcion stated.
In response, OWWA Administrator Cacdac said “We are now finding ways na makasama ang 2015 returnees pero baka hanggang duon na lang talaga siguro dahil may budgetary implications the more we go backwards, the more madadagdagaan ang budgetary requirements. There is a high degree of possibility na mabigyan sila.” [translation]
Further, he recognized the key role that Migrante played in DOLE’s decision to implement a financial relief program. “I would gladly report first and foremost that this policy of financial assistance was partly brought on because we had a dialogue with Migrante on December 8. This was one of the driving forces of Secretary Bello and the Board sitting down to talk about the plight of our retrenched OFWs.”
Migrante International welcomes OWWA’s response to the demands of our Saudi OFWs to expand DOLE’s financial relief assistance program and will continue its campaign to seek justice for thousands of our Saudi OFWs .
“We sincerely hope that DOLE and OWWA would commit additional resources to ensure many more of our Saudi OFWs and their families can benefit from financial relief especially during this time of the pandemic. While the amount may be small compared to the value of their pending labor claims, they deserve it from our government who still needs to pursue all avenues to ensure all their unpaid wages and end of service benefits get in the hands of our OFWs.” Chairperson Concepcion declared. ###