Philippines lifts suspension of OFW deployment to Saudi Arabia

Just two days after he imposed the order, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III lifted the deployment ban on Filipino workers heading to Saudi Arabia.

"After receipt of the official communication from the Saudi government this morning which ensures us that the foreign employers and agencies will shoulder the costs of institutional quarantine and other COVID protocols upon arrival in the KSA, the temporary suspension of deployment to the Kingdom  is hereby lifted," Bello said in a statement on Saturday, May 29.

He ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to enforce the directive "immediately" and provide clearance to all departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Bello lifted the suspension after the Saudi government guaranteed that foreign employers and agencies will shoulder costs of official quarantine protocols upon arrival there.

Bello said that he understood that the suspension order "drew confusion and irritation" among departing OFWs.

"Again, I apologize for the inconvenience and momentary anguish that it may have caused our dear OFWs. It was to the best interest of our OFWs that such decision had to be made," he said.

In a May 27 memo, Bello said DOLE received reports that departing OFWs were being required by their employers to shoulder the health and safety protocol for COVID-19 and insurance coverage premium upon entry. The memo drew backlash from OFWs who were waiting to be deployed.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also said that OFWs who were not vaccinated with Saudi-approved vaccines – Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines – would have to undergo swab tests and a seven-day quarantine upon arrival.

In a statement on Friday, May 28, OFW rights group Migrante said that instead of suspending the deployment based on the reports, the Philippine government should offer to shoulder the costs instead.

Migrante highlighted its demands for the welfare of OFWs to Bello and President Rodrigo Duterte: adequate cash assistance, repatriation, benefits, and "swift and compassionate" services.

"[The Duterte government] does not help, but rather punishes, Filipinos who want to work in the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), especially those who have already processed their papers," Migrante said on Friday. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

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