THE declining oil prices in the international market has left thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) jobless, hungry and stranded in the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
But some quarters, including critics of the overseas employment program, said the situation, described by many as a humanitarian crisis, may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Note that the government, for decades, has been relying on the multi-billion-dollar manpower export industry to meet the employment needs of the burgeoning population.
And with the impending return of the beleaguered Filipino migrant workers, the government is called upon anew to review the overseas employment program.
“Siguro panahon na para huwag na tayong umasa sa ibang bansa para magkaroon ng sapat at magandang trabaho ang ating mga kababayan,” said a former OFW.
Today, many companies in Saudi Arabia, including those employing thousands of OFWs, are having problems due to financial difficulties spawned by the drop in global oil prices.
Records show that more than one million Filipinos, particularly nurses, household service workers and laborers, work in various parts of the kingdom.
Instead of exporting our workers, let’s create more local jobs not only in the metropolis but also in the countryside, where majority of the poor work and live.
We, thus, commend Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero for urging the government to immediately repatriate the stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia and assist them in pursuing unpaid wages.
Of course, we agree with him that there’s a need to mobilize the full range of our diplomatic relations and resources to forge bilateral agreements with KSA and other OFW-importing nations.
This is to ensure that practical mechanisms are in place to prevent mass suffering of OFWs while concerned state authorities review our decades-old overseas employment program.