Press Release
September 7, 2008

Jinggoy, Saudi envoy agree to review Unified Contract

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the Philippines Mohammed Ameen Wali have agreed to form a panel to review and resolve contentious provisions of the controversial "Unified Contract" scheme designed by the Saudi government to govern the hiring of overseas Filipino workers.

The scheme would invalidate the current "direct business" practice wherein Philippine recruitment agencies directly transact with Saudi employers, and require the agencies to enter into a Unified Contract with a Saudi recruitment agency to be able to deploy OFWs to the Kingdom.

Implementation of the scheme, viewed by OFW groups and recruitment agencies as an unnecessary move which would even result to increased cost and processing time in OFW deployment to KSA, was suspended by the Saudi government amidst protests from affected quarters.

""We welcome Ambassador Wali's offer to labor groups, government officials and manpower agencies to sit down, exchange and reconcile differing thoughts on the unified contract. I laud and thank Ambassador Wali for giving consideration to the concerns raised by many sectors in the Philippines particularly OFW groups and recruitment agencies regarding the Unified Contract scheme," Estrada, chair of the Senate committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, and of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, said.

Moreover, Estrada noted Ambassador Wali's statement that Filipino workers are practically everywhere in Saudi Arabia, from the Palace and hospitals to small companies and households, and took this to mean existence of mutually-beneficial relations and a cause to strengthen welfare measures for our compatriots.

2007 records from Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show a 6.7% increase in deployment of new and re-hires from 223,459 (2006) to 238,419 (2007). The number is expected to increase as Saudi Arabia is currently developing at least three economic cities.

"We will pursue to have a bilateral labor agreement between Saudi and the Philippines because such labor accord is the best mechanism to protect our OFWs, especially the household service workers, from maltreatment and abuse. The accord will also ensure our OFWs' welfare," Estrada said.

They likewise discussed details of the forthcoming visit of Estrada on November 3-7 this year to the Kingdom's capital, Riyadh, as well as Jeddah, considered as KSA's commercial capital, which are regarded as the two most important cities of Saudi.

Estrada revealed plans to visit distressed and jailed Filipinos in the Kingdom, saying "I will make sure that they are treated well there and determine how we can help them further."

During the visit, Estrada plans to meet with Saudi Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi as well as the two cities' rulers, Riyadh Governor Prince Salman and Jeddah Governor Prince Mishaal ibn Majed, and launch a free showing of his film, Katas ng Saudi, for the Filipinos there.

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