Friday, 08 April 2011 12:33
Vice President Jejomar Binay arrived Wednesday morning after a week-long trip to Qatar and Saudi Arabia on board Etihad Airlines flight EY 426.
Binay told reporters at NAIA that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agreed to facilitate the repatriation of 4,500 overstaying Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
“The decision to facilitate the repatriation of the ‘overstayers’ is a favor we owe to the generosity of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, who has amnestied so many OFWs in the past,” Binay said.
Binay, also the Presidential Adviser for OFW Concerns, said he expects the repatriation to commence “as soon as the required travel documentation is completed, and the individual concerned has acquired a plane ticket.”
The Vice President said he has already instructed the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to work on the travel documents of the OFWs.
The government will also need at least P143 million to pay for the plane tickets of the 4,500 overstaying OFWs at the resource centers in Riyadh and Jeddah, the Hajj Terminal and private homes in Saudi Arabia.
“Until this happens, the government will have to continue paying 15 Saudi Arabian Riyals per day for every OFW awaiting repatriation at the Hajj Terminal,” he said.
Binay also said ranking ministers of the Saudi government “look forward to a quick solution of the problems that have arisen from the new conditions which our government has incorporated into our workers’ contract without any prior bilateral consultation, so that the hiring of more household workers, which is now suspended, could soon resume.”
A bilateral meeting will be held in Manila starting April 15 to discuss the issue.
The Saudi officials pointed out in their meetings with Binay that Filipinos have become part of almost every Saudi Arabian household, many of them having stayed with the same Arab family for as long as 25 years. The Vice President quoted one minister as saying, “We cannot help but love them and take care of them because they rear our children with such gentleness and love.”
Binay, who also met with Saudi Labor Minister Adel M. Fakeih, said that the Saudi government was determined to reform the entire recruitment process for the benefit of the workers and their host and employers.
Among the projected reform would be the setting up of a 24-hour hotline which employees could use to report any complaint to the authorities, a system that would allow every employee to keep a bank account and require the employer to deposit her salary without any delay in that account, and legal assistance such as translation services in case of court cases.
The minister called it “infrastructure of justice,” which he said could be in place before the end of the year. Vice President Binay also had productive meetings with Saudi and Qatar’s political leaders, leading financiers and investors, who all expressed high hopes for the Aquino administration and agreed to consider the Philippines as a possible site for significant investments in agriculture, infrastructure and renewable energy.
“This trip has further strengthened my faith in our OFWs as our most effective ambassadors abroad, and that partly because of them we have gained true and sincere friends in the highest places in the Middle East,” he said. (PNA/PIA9-BST)
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