Gov’t slammed for downplaying effects of Saudization on OFWs, economy

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and families Migrante International criticized the Aquino administration for “downplaying” the effects of the Saudization policy on OFWs and their families and the domestic economy.

Gina Esguerra, secretary-general of Migrante, disputed statements from the government that the OFW group lied about the number of Filipino workers expected to be affected by the Saudization policy. The government reported that only 180,000 OFWs and not at least 300,000, as estimated by Migrante Middle-East, will initially be affected.

Esguerra clarified that at least 180,000 Filipino domestic workers will be affected by the deployment ban imposed by the Saudi government on Filipino and Indonesian household workers, and that the deployment ban is not even part of the Saudization policy.

“While the Saudization policy, which will affect professionals, skilled and semi-skilled workers, is expected to displace at the onset of its full implementation at least 300,000. In fact, this figure is a conservative estimate considering that there are 1.8 million OFWs in Saudi,” Esguerra said.

Ang pinagtataka namin, bakit ginagawang parang numbers game ng ating gobyerno ang isyu? Be it a mere 10, 100 or 1,000 affected OFWs, it should still be a cause for concern for the government and instead of trying to underestimate it they should be preparing for the consequences. What is problematic is that they are trying to portray that the problem is not as huge as it seems,” she said.

Esguerra also said that their group is more worried about the government’s attitude with regard the general effect of Saudization on the domestic economy.

Ang sinasabi nila ay hindi raw problema at walang dahilan para mabahala tayo. But our economy is so dependent on labor-export and the influx of OFW remittances that it cannot simply just brush aside the loss of revenue from hundreds of thousands of displaced OFWs. Further, how can they say this when they fail to offer concrete plans on how to absorb the hundreds of thousands who will be displaced?” she said.

She cited as an example how the government is once again caught off guard with the most recent pressing issue being encountered by vacationing OFWs from Saudi who were issued “exit only” visas. Those with “exit only” visas will not be able to return to work. “Ganito pa nga lang ay hindi na handa ang gobyerno, paano pa kung dagsa-dagsa na ang bumabalik dito?”

Esguerra said that all the government is offering are so-called reintegration programs characterized by loans with onerous interests and temporary jobs that are not sustainable. “They claim to have 90,000 jobs available but these are still not enough for the 12 million unemployed Filipinos and tens of thousands of displaced OFWs from Egypt and Libya before.”

“The government’s recourse is to once again seek markets for them abroad despite the ongoing global financial crisis that continues to retrench big numbers of OFWs. Their plan is to once again subject our OFWs to the same vicious cycle,” Esguerra said.

Migrante International said that the Aquino administration should decisively deviate from its labor export policy and instead focus on creating decent and sustainable local jobs to end the cycle of forced migration.

Esguerra said that Migrante chapters around the world will hold simultaneous protest actions on the event of Aquino second State of the Nation Address (SONA) to present their own SUMA, State of Migrants Under Aquino.  ###