13,000 OFWs already sent home from Saudi Arabia
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has been able to send home around 13,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Saudi Arabia as part of massive repatriation efforts.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Hans Leo Cacdac said on Sunday, October 29, that this number covers the workers repatriated in a span of one year and two months.
"Since [Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III] went to Saudi Arabia and after President Rodrigo Duterte's promise to repatriate stranded workers from 3 big companies there, 6,000 have already been sent home," Cacdac said in Filipino.
On a trip to the Middle East last April, Duterte had met Filipino migrant workers. The President brought with him 138 stranded OFWs when he returned to the Philippines. (READ: Saudi OFWs raise problems before 'Tatay' Duterte)
The remaining 7,000 were sent home through the Saudi government's amnesty program, which was launched on March 29 and later extended thrice until October 15.
"Those who were left there would have to go through the regular process of homecoming. They have to settle obligations if they have any... They also have to secure an exit visa," Cacdac added.
The Saudi government earlier announced a crackdown on undocumented foreign workers once the amnesty period lapses. (READ: The silent struggle of returning OFWs)
According to Cacdac, Philippine authorities are in talks with the Saudi government to ensure that OFWs won't be jailed and would be placed under the care of the embassy there.
Returning migrant workers also received aid of P5,000 in cash from OWWA. Another P5,000 from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was given to female OFWs with kids to help them with basic necessities.
OWWA also has reintegration programs for repatriated workers. These include a livelihood grant of P20,000 that comes with entrepreneurial training.
Cacdac said this livelihood grant used to be in the form of non-cash benefits worth P10,000. But Bello ordered that the amount be doubled and given in cash to OFWs.
Around 3,800 beneficiaries in 2016 and 6,088 in 2017 have already availed of the program. (READ: Migrant life in Qatar)
Loans of P100,000 to P2 million are also available for those in need of higher business capital, but these come at 7.5% interest per annum with a collateral requirement.
Cacdac said they are in talks with the Land Bank of the Philippines to develop a micro and small-scale lending program worth P50,000 to P300,000 that would not require collateral. (READ: How Duterte gov't plans to bring OFWs back home) – Rappler.com