THE plight of thousands of jobless and stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is something the government must attend to immediately.
It is certainly unfortunate that many of our countrymen in the oil-rich Middle East nation, whose dollar remittances continue to prop up the economy, are without food and in dire need of medical care.
That’s why concerned government officials, particularly labor and foreign affairs authorities, must sit down posthaste with their KSA counterparts to address the problem.
Reports said the first batch of Philippine government officials would fly to Saudi Arabia tomorrow to help the beleaguered OFWs stranded in work camps across the kingdom.
“The directive of (President Rodrigo R. Duterte) is to bring all of them home as soon as possible,” according to Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello, a close ally of Malacañang.
Migrante, a Philippine-based labor rights group, placed the number of affected Filipino migrant workers at 20,000.
However, the government said the distressed Filipinos, many of them skilled workers, number only 9,000.
Reports reaching the country said stranded OFWs could not come home due to lack of exit clearances from the companies that fired them and failed to pay their wages and other benefits.
The plight of the stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia now provides the firmest basis for the review of the country’s overseas employment program, which remains a priority of the government.
In the view of many, it’s time to discuss anew the pros and cons of exporting our skilled and unskilled workers, including medical doctors, nurses, teachers and household service workers.