OFWs claiming unpaid wages warned vs fixers
MANILA, Philippines — Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople has warned overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from falling prey to fraudulent “middlemen” offering to facilitate the payment of their unpaid claims in exchange for a “commission.”
In a press conference on Monday, Ople clarified that details were still being discussed as to the disbursement of the P30.2 billion promised by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to settle the unpaid salaries and benefits of repatriated OFWs.
Ople noted that since making the announcement last week about the Saudi settlement, they have received several reports of individuals introducing themselves as “middlemen” and offering to help the displaced OFWs get their money.
The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) urged those who will encounter this to immediately report the matter to the authorities.
Ople assured that these individuals would be dismissed from service if they are part of the DMW.
So far, there are still no final details as to when the payment of claims will begin, the number of beneficiaries, how the claims will be computed, documentary requirements to be submitted, and the channel of disbursement.
A joint technical working committee has been formed composed of the Saudi Minister of Human Resource and Social Development; the Department of International Bilateral Relations to the Ministry of Human Resources; and several labor attaches from the Saudi side. The Philippine side is composed of the DMW, the Philippine Embassy to Riyadh and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
12,000 OFWs displaced
As to the number of beneficiaries, the DMW will have to reconcile their list with that of the Saudi government.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are 1.77 million Filipino OFWs worldwide with Saudi Arabia having the most at 26.6 percent or 470,000 OFWs.
According to the DMW, 12,000 Filipino OFWs were displaced from Saudi Arabia in 2016 when the kingdom was hit by a financial crisis, which forced construction companies to file for bankruptcy, resulting in the loss of jobs for thousands of Filipino workers.
Ople said the timeline would heavily depend on the Saudi government as the money would come from them. She said she would make an announcement as more information comes in.
“It’s been years of trauma and problem-seeking solution, so now we want to be very clear. Please just wait a bit more, we’re really sorry [for the lack of current information],” Ople apologized.
Joseph Paz, the leader of a group of former Saudi Oger employees pushing for payment of claims, told the Inquirer that six years were more than enough waiting to get what’s theirs.
“The sooner the better, it’s been too long. Even when we’re still in Saudi we didn’t get paid” Paz said.
Ople added that about 40 claimants have already died without receiving their money.
But according to Paz, the number could have already reached 50, adding the recent deaths this month.
Ople, however, assured that their families will inherit the claims and that the agency will create a platform to coordinate with them.
The deal for the Saudi government to settle the unpaid claims was made during the bilateral meeting between President Marcos and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperations Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, last week.