Press Release
August 21, 2016


Following the marching order of President Rodrigo Duterte to repatriate all stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia, Senator Sonny Angara has stressed that the government must be ready to provide employment opportunities and livelihood assistance to the thousands of workers who will be brought home after losing their jobs.

More than 9,000 OFWs are now stranded in various work camps in Saudi Arabia where some of the biggest construction firms have been hit by economic recession caused by volatile oil prices.

"Matapos silang magtiis ng ilang buwan na patuloy sa pagtatrabaho kahit walang sweldo at tuluyan ding matanggal ng wala man lang nakukuhang benepisyo, dapat ay handa ang gobyerno na saluhin ang ating mga OFW pagbalik nila dito sa Pilipinas at tulungan silang makapagsimula muli habang kapiling ang kanilang pamilya," said Angara, vice chairman of the labor committee.

The lawmaker pointed out that the new Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) law or Republic Act 10801 which was enacted in May this year, can boost the government's capacity to assist retrenched OFWs as reintegration program has been identified as one of the core programs of OWWA.

Under the law sponsored by Angara, at least 10 percent of the total collection of OWWA should be used for the reintegration program every year which includes trainings on financial literacy, entrepreneurial development, techno-skills, business counseling as well as job referrals for both local and overseas employment.

Based on the latest data from OWWA, 3,858 affected OFWs in Saudi, including those still at jobsites and already repatriated, have received financial assistance of P20,000 each, while 3,297 families in the Philippines of stranded OFWs were granted P6,000 per family.

The Saudi government has also pledged to shoulder the airfare of retrenched OFWs who wish to return to the Philippines, and waive immigration penalties of OFWs with expired working visas.

"While the Department of Labor and Employment should be lauded for being prompt in taking action and exerting all efforts to provide relief to our OFWs, the huge number of migrant workers still stranded and in dire condition still poses a big challenge for the government," said Angara in his Senate Resolution No. 103 which seeks to look into the implementation of government assistance programs for stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

Under the OWWA's "Balik-Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay" program, displaced or distressed workers can avail of either starter kits worth P7,500 or a livelihood assistance of P10,000, or a special loan facility intended to support enterprise development where an OFW-member or their legal dependent can avail of a loanable amount of P300,000 to P2 million.

"He also noted that aside from financial support, retrenched OFWs may also undergo psycho-social counseling, stress debriefing and values reorientation given the difficulties they endured just so they can continue providing for their families back home," he noted.

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