Press Release
July 13, 2008

Jinggoy to visit Saudi, push for labor pact
to protect domestic helpers, other OFWs

Fresh from a successful visit to the United Arab Emirates where he helped stranded, distressed overseas Filipino workers return home to their families in the Philippines, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada is now preparing for an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi labor officials and propose a bilateral labor pact that would ensure more protection for household service workers (HSWs) and other OFWs in the kingdom.

Estrada, who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, vowed to convince Saudi officials to undertake measures that would stop incidents of Arab employers abusing Filipino workers, particularly HSWs. He said he would meet with officials of the Saudi Ministry of Labor, Shoura council members and other concerned agencies to inform them of the complaints and problems of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia where an estimated 1.5 million OFWs are based.

Estrada recently arrived from a successful five-day official trip to the United Arab Emirates where he convinced UAE labor Minister Saqr Saeed Gobash to provide protection to Filipino workers. There are more than 200,000 OFWs deployed in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other UAE cities. The eldest son of former President Joseph Estrada came home with 20 stranded OFWs from the UAE. The senator used his personal funds to buy airline tickets for the 20 workers. Estrada will also fund the repatriation of 10 other stranded OFWs from the UAE in the coming days.

Estrada said he would go to Saudi Arabia and meet with various groups of Filipino workers and Saudi officials to verify reports that many Saudi family members maltreat their Filipino HSWs. "Many abused HSWs and other OFWs have escaped from their employers and have sought refuge in the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA) Centers," Estrada said, noting reports that dozens of Filipinos are now stranded in Jeddah.

"We will help the distressed Filipinos in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East such as Kuwait, Syria and Jordan among others," he said, adding:

"Having bilateral labor agreements is the best way to keep our OFWs from abuses and ill-fate. We have to aggressively negotiate for these agreements now not only with the KSA, but with all other OFW destination-countries as well."

In September last year, Estrada conducted initial discussions with Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Tony Hely for a similar labor pact between the two countries.

"Practically everyday, we hear of Filipino workers being abused and maltreated by their employers abroad, especially in countries that our government does not have bilateral labor agreements with. Such agreements could prevent these misfortunes by laying down the necessary guidelines and provisions for the protection of our workers," Estrada said.

Estrada will also promote to OFWs in Saudi the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) thru National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) its program that will train returning workers, who plan to stay or retire in the Philippines, to invest their money and set up their own businesses.

Estrada urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) thru Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to prepare a skills enhancement program for the returning Filipino workers to keep them globally competitive while awaiting for redeployment abroad.

Part of Estrada's interaction program with OFWs in the KSA is the free showing of his film "Katas ng Saudi."

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