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Aids pour in for OFWs stranded in Saudi

KING Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia has donated SR100,000,000 or P1.2 billion for Filipinos and other foreign workers affected by the massive retrenchment in the kingdom triggered by the drop in oil prices.

A statement from the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Manila said King Salman donated the fund “in view of humanitarian consideration and keenness of the kingdom’s government in protecting the rights of foreign workers, including stranded overseas Filipino workers.”

“This royal magnanimity is considered unique of its kind as no government of any state receiving foreign workers in the entire world in the past has shouldered this kind of burden resulting from deployment of foreign workers in companies in the private sector on the ground that these are private labor cases,” the embassy said.

Meanwhile, Filipino and Saudi officials are working together to help thousands of stranded workers under a directive from King Salman, said  Iric Arribas, charge d’affaires at the Philippine embassy.

The Public Attorney Office (PAO) has also extended legal assistance to thousands of OFWs who have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia.
Chief Public Attorney Dr. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta who returned home from Saudi Arabia Sunday, said several PAO regional directors are personally supervising their assistance program for Pinoy expatriates in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar.
The public attorneys will help Filipinos execute special powers of attorney, file salary claims and other legal procedures.
Acosta , who joined a high profile Philippine team composed of inter agency, bared that   King Salman also ordered the government to pay for the repatriation of distressed OFWs, ensure the release of their benefits and speed up the processing of their exit visas.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) have also sent financial aid to the OFWs.
Earlier, labor chief  Silvestre Bello III  said the King instructed his Ministry of Labor to facilitate the process of providing welfare assistance for the stranded OFWs.
Bello added that the King’s directive consisted of waiving immigration penalties due to their expired working visas, plane fare for OFWs returning to the Philippines, food aid, re-employment assistance, and legal assistance.
“We immensely express our gratitude to King Salman for his concern to our OFWs,” Bello said.
Some 9,000 to 11,000 OFWs are currently out of job and stranded in Saudi Arabia due to a massive layoff triggered by a slump in oil prices.
Bello said the instruction not only guarantees the protection of OFWs, but also other foreign workers in Saudi Oger and other companies affected by falling oil prices.
Bello said King Salman has informed that the Saudi government will shoulder the airfare for OFWs affected by the massive layoff and retrenchment who wish to return to the Philippines.
Aside from food aid, legal assistance from the Ministry of Labor will also be given to OFWs in the company camps to gather money claims and other legal complaints.
Bello said Labor Ministry Director General Mohammed Al Sharekh informed the POLO that OFWs no longer need to proceed at the Saudi Labor Office since labor officers will proceed to the camps to receive the cases.
The DOLE secretary  added OFWs who seek other employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia will be assisted by the ministry through the Mega Manpower Companies.
The statement said an inter-agency emergency relief assistance mission -- composed of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Health, Social Welfare and Development, Technical Education and Skills Developtement Authority, and the Public Attorney’s Office -- has been organized by the government to support the three POLOs in Saudi Arabia.
Bello earlier  thanked Salman for his help.
Bello, who met his Saudi counterpart Mufarrej al-Haqbani, handed over a letter of gratitude from President Rodrigo Duterte.
Before leaving for Saudi Arabia, Bello told  mediamen  that Duterte wants the workers back as soon as possible.