MANILA, Philippines – The government has allotted P2 billion for overseas Filipino workers returning home due to the “Saudization” policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Meron… pong naka-antabay na tulong pinansyal ang pamahalaan sa ilalim ng reintegration program ng Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE),” Sec Herminio Coloma Jr of the Presidential Communications Operations Office on Sunday over radio dzRB.
(The government set aside financial aid under the reintegration program of the Department of Labor and Employment.)
The P2 billion fund will come from the DOLE, state-owned banks Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines, and will be available to OFWs returning home from Saudi Arabia if they miss the country’s deadline to legalize their status November 3.
The policy could potentially affect thousands of Filipino workers there.
“Sa huling pagtaya, umaabot na sa 4,371 Filipino workers ang nakauwi sa Pilipinas, samantalang humigit-kumulang 9,000 ang nabigyan na ng kaukulang travel documents, at mga 1,500 naman ang naghihintay ng kinakailangang clearance mula sa immigration,” Coloma said.
(As of last estimate, around 4,371 Filipino workers are back in the Philippines, while around 9,000 have been issued proper travel documents, and around 1,500 are waiting for their needed clearance from immigration.)
Coloma said the so-called “Saudization” policy of the Middle Eastern country has had a “limited effect.”
Under the policy, undocumented overseas workers should have their status legalized, or else, they would face repatriation. This comes as the country tightens rules on migrant workers, given increasing unemployment rate among its own citizens.
“Nakapaghanda na ang pamahalaan ng mga mekanismo na nagbibigay pagkakataon sa mga Pilipino na makalipat sa ibang kompanya sa Saudi, o pumasok sa ibang propesyon,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jesus Yabes has been tasked to coordinate with Saudi officials to speed up the process of repatriating those affected.
This is aside from the Philippine government’s appeal to the Saudi government, through a letter by Vice President Jejomar Binay addressed to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to further extend the deadline to allow the workers to fix their papers.
Binay, who is also the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ Concerns, said the extension appeal is due to an “administrative” problem.
“So many applicants, so many foreigners are involved, hindi matapus-tapos ng Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Binay said at the sidelines of an event in Pasay City Sunday. (The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can’t finish processing.)
Aside from Filipinos, nationals from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, among others, are affected.
“Makakaasa po ang buong bayan na patuloy po ang pagbibigay ng tulong legal at iba pang necessary assistance ng ating pamahalaan sa ating mga kababayan na apektado ng nasabing patakaran,” Coloma said.
(The country can be assured the government will extend legal and other necessary assistance to affected workers.)
The government is also promising to help illegal Filipino workers who face imprisonment or other sanctions.
The November 3 deadline is already an extension from the original July 3 deadline.
Violators face up to 2 years in prison, and fines of at least 100,000 Saudi riyals. – Rappler.com