Gov’t sets P10,000 aid each for OFWs awaiting Saudi claims
MANILA, Philippines — Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia due to the oil price crash that crippled several construction companies in the Middle Eastern kingdom between 2015 and 2017 will receive P10,000 each in financial aid, according to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).
Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said the amount, to be drawn from the budgets of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), serves as a form of “humanitarian assistance” to the OFWs while the Philippines waits for the Saudi Arabian government to fulfill its promise of compensation worth billions of pesos.
For financial aid, some P100 million has been allotted for about 8,000 to 10,000 OFWs. The payout schedule is yet to be announced, but the DSWD has agreed to provide an online registration platform for the beneficiaries.
“This is for now a one-time humanitarian assistance because our real goal is to resolve the claims,” Ople said during the signing of a memorandum of agreement on the initiative between the DMW and DSWD on Saturday.
Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian promised to have the funds transferred by next week and start the disbursement as soon as possible.
From 2015 to 2017, more than 10,000 OFWs were repatriated from Saudi Arabia after the major construction companies that employed them filed for bankruptcy as the kingdom reeled from plunging oil prices. They left with months’ worth of salaries and years’ worth of benefits still unpaid.
According to former Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, their total claims would now amount to about P5.1 billion.
The majority of the former Saudi OFWs were construction workers, professional painters and engineers, many with six-figure monthly salaries. Some 100 claimants have already died since the mass repatriation, the Inquirer learned.
Ople called on repatriated Saudi OFWs who had yet to register as claimants to approach the DMW and present proof of their employment in the bankrupted companies.
In November, the secretary announced that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud had made a promise to President Marcos that the Saudi government would be settling the workers’ claims in the sum of 2 billion riyals, or P30.5 billion.
Ople on Saturday said Migrant Workers Undersecretary Bernard Olalia would be going to Saudi Arabia and meet with its officials to discuss “the unpaid claims.”
Technical working group
A joint technical working group composed of members from the Philippine and Saudi Arabian governments was formed on the matter last year. An earlier DMW statement said the group met at least once in November. Ople later said the group had been holding weekly meetings since.
“There’s this agitation, there are some false information … Some are saying ‘it’s taking too long’ [but] we just really want to be responsible in handling the information and dealing with our counterparts,” Ople explained.