Press Release
August 8, 2008

Jinggoy worried over new "Unified Contract" scheme in
Saudi recruitment of OFWs

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada today expressed apprehension over a new scheme in recruitment of OFWs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is feared to increase the cost and time on OFW deployment procedures and is reported to contain provisions that are anti-labor and are even contrary to Philippines' and international laws.

"This is another foreign government's policy that might adversely affect our OFWs, the overseas employment providers and the whole overseas employment industry, and might even be inconsistent with our laws and our labor policies. It needs thorough study and deliberation," Estrada, concurrent chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, and of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, said.

The senator's reaction was in relation to reports that the Saudi Ministry of Interior approved the new scheme called Unified Contract or Recruitment and Manpower Development Cooperation Contract to be implemented by the Saudi National Recruitment Committee (SANARCOM) starting September 1, 2008.

According to reports, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia (RESA) in Manila, on July 18, 2008, issued a Memorandum to all Saudi Embassy-accredited Philippine recruitment agencies, informing them that unless they enter into such Unified Contract with a Saudi recruitment agency, they cannot file visa applications with the RESA. Hence, they will not be able to deploy OFWs in KSA, and that "Business with Saudi private recruitment agencies will not be completed unless it is done through the Unified Contract."

The Philippine Association of Services Exporters Inc. (PASEI), headed by its president, Victor Fernandez, said their present "Direct Business relationship" with Saudi employers is fine and is benefiting both parties and the OFWs, thus it doesn't need to be replaced by a new scheme.

The group said the Unified Contract scheme will introduce a third party in their business transactions thus increasing the cost and time on OFW deployment procedures, and it contains provisions that are anti-labor especially to migrant workers and are even contrary to Philippine laws and international laws.

"I am supporting PASEI's call on the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to transmit a Note Verbale to the RESA to ask for the deferment of the scheduled implementation of the Unified Contract scheme. This deferment would provide us time to conduct a through study and deliberation on the matter so we could come up with corresponding steps," Estrada said.

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