Press Release
August 21, 2016


In cognizance of the ongoing economic upheaval in Saudi Arabia after prices of crude plummeted to its lowest in the past 12 years, Senator Joel Villanueva has urged government to ensure that there will be better job opportunities for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, is pushing for the expansion of government scholarship programs for returning OFWs especially in skills development or technical vocational education.

"Most, if not all, of our OFWs go abroad because of lack of opportunity in the Philippines. Some of them do not even consider returning to the Philippines due to shortage of jobs that would suit their skills and financial needs. One way in which we can assure them of a better life here in the country is through provision of assistance and incentives to OFWs who will invest in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by giving them access to resources and by developing their capacity for innovation and potential to grow," Villanueva explained.

Previous reports state that thousands of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia are at risk of losing their jobs due to a huge budget shortfall and falling oil prices being faced by the Middle Eastern country. At present, there are about one million Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

"We urge the government to strengthen its support services to our OFWs. As of now, what we have are DOLE ASSISTWELL centers where they can inquire about the availability of jobs in the country. However, we won't stop there. We already filed a bill which institutionalizes cluster-based programs and projects through inter-local cooperation and people's participation. This bill enjoins LGUs to gather their resources and coordinate with the private sector to bring in investments and create more jobs," the senator noted.

Recently, officials from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) met with representatives of the Saudi Ministry of Labor and Social Development to address the plight of stranded OFWs. DFA teams were also deployed to provide humanitarian, legal and medical assistance to the OFWs.

Prior to the said meeting, Saudi King Salman Bin Abdullaziz Al Saud issued an order waiving penalties for around 11,000 stranded OFWs due to expired working permits. He also ordered officials of the Saudi government to facilitate the transfer of affected OFWs to other companies with vacancies.

With the lifting of penalties, OFWs with expired working permits can choose whether to reapply with their employers or avail of the government's repatriation program.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte already issued a directive ordering the repatriation of stranded OFWs. Along with the said order is the immediate provision of assistance to the victims.

"This crisis has brought great distress not only to our OFWs but also to the families who depend on them. We commend government's efforts in taking action on the plight of our overseas workers.

However, we must not only provide a band-aid solution in the form of giving them the assistance they need while recovering from financial turmoil. We must also ensure that our skilled workers, in the long run, would be able to find viable jobs here in the country so that they won't be forced to leave their families in search of greener pastures in a foreign country. Greener pastures should be found here." Villanueva said.

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