DOLE to hold first congress on OFWs


OWWA/June 3, 2011 – The Dept. of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and its attached agencies will be celebrating its 1st NATIONAL CONGRESS OF OFWs AND FAMILIES on June 7, Tuesday at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia, Pasay City. This momentous event falls on Migrant Workers Day, the special day made for the Filipino overseas workers.

Migrant Workers of various nationalities during May 2011 International Workers’ Day march through Hamra and Sanayeh in Beirut, Lebanon. (Click Photo)

The National Congress of OFWs and Families aims to convene OFWs and families, and other stakeholders to draw up recommendations for program development and policy direction in fostering OFW sector development, and to develop a mechanism in the implementation of the billion-peso reintegration program for enterprise development of OFWs.

The event’s highlight will be the launching of the 2 Billion Pesos Reintegration Program. This is a joint venture of the DOLE, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines. The program offers different enterprises, flexible and easy loan term payments for its OFW availees. This is in support of the president’s desire to give sustainable businesses to the OFWs and their families.

The event will also showcase exhibits of products and services of former OFWs and Overseas Filipino Circles (OFCs) who have previously availed of the reintegration programs and financial and technical assistances offered by the OWWA.

The event will also feature the presentation of the OFW Manifesto which underscores the needs and concerns of the OFWs and their families. The Manifesto was drafted from the accumulated reports of the Regional Congress of the OWWA Regional Welfare Offices.

The attendees of the event are the OFWs, their families, the OFCs, the social partners, the media and some distinguished guests.

OWWA organized this event in celebration of the national Migrant Workers Day.

Saudi to limit work permits to help locals


RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will not renew the work permits of foreign workers  who have spent six years in the country as part of its plan to create jobs for nationals, its labour minister was quoted as saying on Monday.”The current situation calls for strong cooperation between the government and private sector in solving the problem of unemployment with hundreds of thousands looking for work,” Adil Fakieh was quoted as saying by the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

Let's put the "Saudi" in Saudization

Fakieh did not say when the decision would be implemented or whether it would be applied to all foreign workers or to specific jobs.

Unemployment among nationals in the kingdom, which sits on more than a fifth of global oil reserves and is the world’s biggest oil exporter, is currently 10.5 percent, he said, adding that 28 percent of the unemployed were women and 40 percent high school graduates.

Fakieh said there were currently eight million foreign workers in the kingdom of whom six million work in the private sector. Remittances from foreign workers total 100 billion riyals ($27 billion) a year, he said.

Saudi Arabia does not regularly publish data on unemployment, a sensitive issue since it highlights fissures in wealth distribution in the absolute monarchy with no elected parliament, where newspapers tend to carry the official line.

King Abdullah offered Saudis $93 billion in handouts in March to stave off unrest of the kind rocking other parts of the Arab world. This followed a $37 billion package announced in February in an initial move to ease social tensions.

Despite its wealth, unemployment in the Gulf Arab state has risen as an outdated school system focused on religion and the Arabic language produces graduates who have difficulty finding jobs with private firms.

Companies favour workers from Asia, prepared to work long hours for low salaries, or well-paid foreign experts.

Many Saudis work in the public sector but, in contrast to other Gulf oil producers such as Kuwait, citizens do not automatically get a job because of the rapidly rising population, which now stands at almost 19 million.

In 1994 the government began a “Saudisation” plan, setting quotas for the number of nationals private firms must hire. The programme failed to achieve a significant increase in the participation of nationals in the private sector, where Saudis still account for only 10 percent of employees.

Almost 70 percent of Saudis are under the age of 30, and the population is increasing by around 2.4 percent annually.

In an attempt to create thousands of new jobs and diversify its oil-dominated economy, Saudi Arabia launched a $400 billion five-year spending plan in 2008, the largest stimulus relative to gross domestic product among the world’s 20 leading nations.  (Reporting by Jason Benham, editing by Tim Pearce: REUTERS/ May 30, 2011 at 14:02 )

POLO/OWWA conducts OLEP Plus for OFWs


The Philippine Overseas Labor Office is conducting a series of  forum for three consecutive Friday’s starting this coming 27th of May, to be followed on the 3rd of June  and  17th  of June 2011  respectively  at POLO OFW Leaders Lounge inside the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh.

The mentioned forum called Overseas Labor Education Program or OLEP  is a noteworthy initiative by then former POLO Labor Attaché Resty Dela Fuente who is currently posted as Labor Attaché in Brussels, Belgium.

In an email sent by POLO Central Region Operations-Welfare Officer Atty. Cesar Chavez  the OLEP which is at present dubbed as “OLEP Plus” (Overseas Labor Education Program for Community Leaders) is a program that will give OFWs relevant information and know-how about the host country, its labor laws and its culture and OFWs rights, obligations and privileges as well,  recognized by the host country.   

Left to Right (POLO/OWWA) Asst. Labor Attache Atty. Cesar L. Chavez, Jr., Welfare Officer Odin Abdula, (ANS)Vice Consul, Atty. Roussel Reyes, Vice Consul, Atty. Paulo Saret and Islamic Center Dawa'h Exec. Manager Shk. Marwan Al Hamd during On-site Overseas Labor Education Program of the Philippine Embassy, POLO & OWWA in the 2nd Industrial Area-Riyadh/January 2010

POLO/OWWA OLEP Plus, under the mentorship of  POLO WelOff Atty. Cesar Chavez  is at present designed that consist the following program outline: Basic Community Leadership; Guide on the Salient Provisions of the New Saudi Labor Law; How to assist and handling Distress Calls; Family Law on Support; Trafficking in Person, Money Laundering; RA 10022; Workshop and others.  

OLEP Plus ensures the use of common reference and provides correct information to OFWs seeking advice from fellow OFWs.

While human smuggling is the talk of the town allegedly carried out by some POLO officials in Kuwait, the Filipino Community in Saudi Arabia still have very much confidence with our Labor officials  particularly in Riyadh and Al Khobar.

OLEP Plus  include  ground rules of  human trafficking and hopefully the “Waiver Policy” at Bahay Kalinga will continue to be enforced to prevent devious officials in releasing or transferring an OFW in distress from one employer to another in exchange for monetary consideration.

The BK “Waiver Policy” also ensures that our ran away female OFWs are protected from further harm done by fellow Filipinos who took advantage of their unfortunate situation.

See you at OLEP Plus!(BongA)

FilCom in Dubai come up with safety awareness booklet for OFWs


Filipino community leaders in Dubai come up with 50-page safety awareness book with tips outlining how compatriots new to the UAE can stay out of trouble.

Also in KSA "Avoid kissing in public"

DUBAI: Sex outside marriage could land you in big trouble. Avoid kissing in public. Don’t think that your debts are cancelled after you spend time in jail for bouncing a cheque. Don’t eat or drink in public during the fasting hours of Ramadan.

These are simple yet firm reminders Filipinos new to the country will get from a “safety awareness booklet” to curb the number of compatriots landing in trouble for being on the wrong side of UAE laws, a community leader said.

The 50-page booklet is being prepared by Filcom, a group of over 50 Filipino community leaders in Dubai and the northern emirates. “It’s a simple and easy to understand guide to remind our ‘kabayans’ [compatriots] about how to behave and take responsibility for their actions while in the UAE,” Lisa Magno Concepcion, President of Filcom, said.

The passport-size handbook is the latest attempt by the Filipino community to communicate dos and don’ts to the estimated 400,000 compatriots in Dubai. According to Concepcion, around 10,000 copies will be printed initially and distributed for free on June 10, two days ahead of celebrations marking the 113th Philippine Independence Day.

The guide also deals with illicit relations and potential punishments and also offers home safety tips. Couples who live together outside marriage are unaware that it is illegal here.” Many are also unaware that the way they dress could also invite trouble,” she said, adding a lot of Filipinos mistakenly think their debts are written off after they are jailed over non-payment of bank loans. “But in truth, you still owe the bank which can file a civil case until the amount is paid in full.”

The bilingual handbook (Tagalog and English), click here >>>>>>>>>to read more.

AFTTA and KACST Filipino employees united to promote Sports


AFTTA and KACST Filipino employees united to promote Sports

AFTTA-KACST

Riyadh, 14 May 2011All Filipino Table Tennis Association popularly known in the Filipino sports activities in Riyadh as AFTTA and the Filipino employees of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology-KACST united to promote sports among the Filipino Community in the area.  

AFTTA is a Filipino Table Tennis sports organization in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with more than a hundred members. Table Tennis is the main activity of the group and each year has held four seasonal tournaments and four non-level or invitational tournament.

New AFTTA members belong to the Filipino community working in KACST, a Saudi government institution offered the compound’s recreation center to be the new home of AFTTA.

The gesture was appreciated by the group in a meeting held last Friday, 13 May 2011 at KACST recreation center. AFTTA President Vic Delos Santos was thankful to KACST management and Filipino employees in their desire to promote table tennis as productive activity in the community. “This will not only give the body physically fit but a healthy diversion to ease homesickness.” Delos Santos added. He also emphasized that AFTTA is purely a sport organization and should not be used in any political agenda.

Bong Amora who represent KACST employees in the meeting, explained to the group to respect the security measures by KACST’s  security management especially entering the compound and only members of AFTTA are allowed to enjoy the recreation facilities.“Promoting camaraderie among table tennis enthusiasts is not only that matters but in order to become a model expatriate to the host country, everyone should respect the authority, be disciplined and have self control, these are basic ways  to master the sport of their choice and to excel at the job”,   Amora said.

AFTTA’s 2010 officers are President Vic Delos Santos; Vice-President / Administrator Willie Venzon; Officer, Tournament Affairs Val Tomas; Deputy, Tournament Affairs Ariel Mauyao; OFFICERS:  Ways & Means Bong Tolosa; Finance Officer Romy Gripo; Muslim Affairs Coordinator Faisal Pandi; Artist / Media Affairs Coordinator Junior Ebro; Head Coach / Training & Development Ronnie Apostol; Technical Adviser Boy Marcelo; House Rules Adviser Bong Amora.

The group is planning to host invitational tournament this year and will also participate in other group’s table tennis tournament particularly those to be held in Dammam, Al Khobar and Jeddah. – BongA

Tidbits: Saudization & Transfer of Sponsorhip


Saudization 1990 up to present

ArabNews Editorial: Saudization plan

Wielding the stick does not work when employers know they can find a way out

It is refreshing to hear Labor Minister Adel Fakieh stating a few home truths about Saudization — that the number of unemployed is probably higher than the official figures, that the number of expatriates in the Kingdom is in fact growing at double the Saudi population growth rate and that, so far, Saudization had not worked.

Saudization is crucial to the well-being of the country. Jobs have to be found to meet the aspirations of the growing population. If they are not, the consequences could be dire.

The harsh truth is that Saudization has been an abject failure. Despite two decades of government campaigns, companies in the private sector continue to employ foreigners rather than Saudis — indeed do so in ever increasing numbers.

That is because expatriates are far cheaper to employ than Saudis. They can also be sacked easily. There is an issue too about Saudis’ work ethic. There may be plenty of voices protesting that Saudis are as dedicated workers as anyone else, but there is an undeniable problem. If there were not, why are there Saudi companies that refuse to employ Saudis? (Saudi men, that is; Saudi women are welcome.) Or employ them so that the numbers look right on the books, but tell them to stay at home? It happens. read more>>>>>

Online News, A year Ago – New Rules for Foreign Workers in Saudi Arabia

This online news was posted a year ago. I want to share this news to our readers,  for them to be enlightened about the rumors of a “new rules for Foreign Workers” in the Kingdom that they heard around the expatriates community.

Please note that there was no ban or law issued by the Saudi government for expats not to return  (come back) to KSA after a clearance or EXIT was issued to them by their employers. If an expat has a  good employee-employer relation and decide to apply for an EXIT and the employer approve the request;  and clear the expat  from all monetary obligations  plus an employment certificate, expatriate can come back to KSA with  new employer and can work in other GCC countries as well.

Transfer  of  Sponsorhip (online news below) means – a worker who transfer from one (original) employer to another (new) employer. The worker during the transfer must be still/within the Kingdom.  The other term for Transfer of Sponsorphip  is  Transferrable Iqama.  

Please read below online news with link:

Foreign workers in the Kingdom are now required to wait two years to transfer sponsorship to a new employer.

On March 24, the Labor Ministry announced that expatriates will have to work a minimum of two years with their current employer in order to get the approval for their sponsorship to be transfer to another. Until recently, workers were able to change jobs after six months with their employers’ consent. (Ministry of Labor Resolution 730/1 dated 29/3/1431 H).

This extension in waiting periods, enforced since April 15, aims to stabilize employer-employee relations and reduce negative impact expat movements were having in the job market.

“Some companies recruit workers in order to transfer their services to others. This practice had a negative impact on employment of Saudis,” said Abdul Rahman Al-Bawaridi, deputy minister for labor affairs. read more>>>>> 

Re-entry to any GCC Countries:

 العودة إلى أي من دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي:

Employees convicted of any violations in any of the GCC countries which includes violations of any labor or immigrations rules, will not be permitted to re-enter ANY GCC Country. Example : Employees going on vacation and not returning and then trying to re-enter another GCC country will be banned.

الموظفين المدانون بإرتكاب أي مخالفة في أي من دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي و التي تتضمن مخالفة أي من قوانين العمل أو الهجرة , لن يسمح لهم بالعودة لأي دولة من دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي. على سبيل المثال : الموظفون المغادرون في إجازة ولايعودوا, وثم يحاولون العودة إلى دولة أخرى من دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي سوف يتم منعهم.

Remittance power of Overseas Filipinos to drive community development


Unlad Kabayan, a migrant worker NGO, is one of the beneficiaries of Remit4Change.

Innovation to Spur Remittance-driven Development thru Corporate Social Responsibility

A new programme, called Remit4changewas launched last week by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) in partnership with the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research & Action (TIGRA), a California-based non-governmental organization. The program promotes an enabling environment for the collective remittance practices of Filipino overseas to boost local economic development.“With this programme, we aim to develop an innovative grassroots model of migrant-centered and driven development that truly embodies President Aquino’s Public-Private Partnership strategy for national economic development,” commented Sec. Imelda Nicolas of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. “We have partnered with TIGRA to adopt and adapt its Remit4change program which will generate funding for community-based projects through principles and practices of corporate social responsibility in the money transfer industry.”

Francis Calpotura, TIGRA Executive Director said: “Every time our kababayans use a US-based money transfer company accredited by TIGRA, that company will contribute $1 to a community development project of the remitter’s choice. The remitter selects from a list of projects aimed to improve the lives of migrant families.” According to TIGRA’s estimates, in 2010 alone, Filipinos overseas transacted more than 50 million money transfers from more than 120 countries.

“We launched Remit4Change for Latin America last year, and we’re ready to replicate the program in the Philippines this year. Our partnership with CFO is a historic step in making migration an option and not a necessity for economic survival for millions of Filipinos,” added Calpotura.

“We strongly support and campaign for Remit4Change which highlights the vital role of migrants in generating corporate community reinvestments as a viable and practical model that benefits migrant communities,” commented Melanie Valenciano, Program Officer at Unlad Kabayan, a Remit4change beneficiary and the lead Philippine-based, migrant worker NGO that collaborates with TIGRA in implementing the program. “Furthermore, Remit4Change also reinforces the broader need for lower, fairer, and more transparent remittance fee-pricing that will democratize the industry.” read more>>>>

OFW Congress will initiate OFW Contingency Plan


OFW Congress will initiate OFW Contingency Plan

18/04/2011, RIYADH: OFW Congress-Riyadh will initiate OFW Contingency Plan and seek approval from our Philippine Embassy. The said OFW Contingency plan will serve as model contingency plan in any crisis such as natural calamity and other form of uncertainties in the future detrimental to the lives of OFWs in the region.

The group formed a committee assigned to draft and formulate mechanism for an effective contingency plan in the whole area of Riyadh or Central Region as a whole.    

Initial steps were drawn up for an effective OFW contingency plan as follows:

a)  OFWC  will initiate, draft and formulate OFW Contingency Plan or OFWCP.

b)  OFWC will request Philippine Embassy to invite Filipino Community Organizations (Philippine Embassy to host the meeting at the Embassy grounds).

c)  OFWC will request the Philippine Embassy to hear their side of contingency plan. 

d)  OFWC will present their Contingency Plan (Detailed Power Point Presentation) to FILCOM Organization in Riyadh.

e)   OFWC and FilCom agreed  OFWCP should be approved by our Philippine Embassy.

f)    Upon approval, the OFW Contingency Plan should be submitted to Overseas Preparedness and Response Team (OPTR) in Malacanang.

g)  OFWC/FilCom and /Philippine Embassy will request the OPTR to create a “STANDBY EMERGENCY FUND” that can be used in time of the actual needs based on the submitted OFW Contingency Plan (OFWCP).

OFWC Executive Vice President and Committee Chairman,  Engr. Faisal Sarque said irrespective of the nature of their group, all OFW organizations must join the OFWC initiative contingency plan – whether they like it or not,” adding that “the said contingency plan is for the general welfare of the OFWs in the mentioned area.” 

OFWC will identify area coordinators in areas, like Industrial Areas in Riyadh where huge concentrations of OFWs are found. 

OFWC VP-Economic Affairs, Engr. Allan Macabangkit said that 70% of OFWs who are not member of any organizations are covered by the Contingency Plan.” 

The group also urging Filipino Community Organizations to support the Philippine Embassy/POLO/OWWA’s advisory to register all OFWs online. This can be done by compiling all their members information and register it at once via online. (END)

OFW Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia Released, Thankful for Embassy’s Relentless Work


OFW Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia Released, Thankful for Embassy’s Relentless Work

18 April 2011- The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) earlier sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia was granted pardon and freed Sunday. His repatriation to the Philippines has been arranged by the Embassy and he is due to arrive in Manila shortly.

The Embassy is not releasing his name, in deference to the request of the OFW’s family for privacy.

The OFW was earlier sentenced to death by beheading in November 2009 by a tribunal of three judges for involvement in smuggling the illegal drug shabu into Saudi Arabia.

In February 2008, he was apprehended by Saudi law enforcement agents after receiving a postal package with shabu hidden inside. The smuggling and selling of illegal drugs in the country is a crime punishable by the death penalty

Following his arrest, the Embassy exerted utmost efforts in ensuring that his legal rights were respected during the investigation process and in trial.

Through the Embassy’s efforts, an appeal was filed on the original decision. Based on the appeal prepared by the Embassy with the assistance of counsel, two members of the tribunal reduced the earlier penalty from death penalty to 15 years imprisonment, 1500 lashes and a karama (fine) of Saudi Riyals 100,000.

Subsequently, the Embassy included the OFW’s name in the list submitted to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud for the grant of Royal Clemency. The Embassy’s efforts was favorably acted upon, and he was ordered released after serving a total of three years in detention.

Upon release, he tearfully thanked the Embassy for its relentless efforts at working for his release from prison.

He expressed gratitude to Charge d’Affaires (CDA) Ezzedin H. Tago for the Embassy’s tireless efforts on his case. Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, legal officer Jerome Friaz and interpreter Jamel Haris worked relentlessly for his release. The OFW vowed to pursue a different course in his life as a freed man with his family in the Philippines.

“His release is testament to the hard work and tireless dedication of the men and women of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh in safeguarding the welfare of every Filipino in Saudi Arabia,” CDA Tago said.

The OFW is the third Filipino sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia whose release was successfully secured by the Embassy. Earlier, Michael Roque was released from prison in February 2011, while Nonito Abono was released in November 2010. END

Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule


Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule

Countries With Severe Anti Drug Laws: In Indonesia you’d be looking at 10 to 15 years for drug possession, while in other places like Malaysia and Singapore it can range up to 50 years. Serious drugs charges in Tunisia can land you in jail for up to 20 years.

Turkey’s jails are notorious, and a drugs conviction could mean you’d be seeing the inside of one for up to 20 years. Smoke cannabis in India and you could lose 10 years of your life behind bars. If you’re caught smuggling drugs in Venezuela, it’s at least 10 years, while Morocco has a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine for possession. Perhaps surprisingly, Jamaica is tough on drugs possession, with mandatory jail terms and heavy fines even for possessing small quantities of drugs.

Even Europe isn’t all liberal in its attitude to drugs. Not only does Greece have life in prison as a deterrent, but Italy can put you away for up to 20 years, and Spain is only slightly less lenient – a maximum of 12 years.

If you’re a migrant workers overseas and arrested on drugs charges, you have the right to see the Embassy or Consulate – in fact, the local police are obliged to contact the Consulate or Embassy. Be aware, however, that they can’t do much. They can’t get you out of jail, or even see that you obtain better living conditions.

The solution, of course, is to not use or carry drugs abroad. Don’t be tempted to take them in your luggage for money or let yourself be tricked into it.
***
Parts of the Middle East, especially the Gulf States, treat drug possession harshly. In Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, even possession of miniscule amounts of marijuana – too small to be seen – can result in several years in prison.
***
Saudi Arabia, where those convicted of drug trafficking can end up beheaded in public. Pushers and Users will be jailed for an unknown number of years prior to trial. 
***
SO IF YOU ARE AN OFW, DO NOT BE TRICKED FOR MONEY AND BECOME A DRUG COURIER,
IF YOU’RE AN OFW, DO NOT SELL OR USE ILLEGAL DRUGS!
 Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule!
 
An Anti-DRUG Courier Campaign of OFW Congress-Riyadh
 

Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislation?


Babalik AKO Bayan Ko!

A few months ago, I featured an excerpt of a blog entry from a former OFW who was known in the OFW Community in Riyadh. In fact we met each other in 2003 during the 1st OFW Conference on Reintegration in KSA initiated by then Labor Attaché Jainal Rasul, Jr.  Like me, he was one of the resource speakers in that conference but we haven’t got the chance to be introduced with each other.

That particular blog entry titled “Dream Big Dreams – a Gadfly’s Wish Listcaught to my attention.  It is a dream for a creation of a specific body tasked with OFW economic reintegration.  And this could only be realized through a legislation to be enacted as a law by the Philippine Congress.  

The same blog entry that inspired OFW Congress Executive Council members to pass a resolution addressed to Pnoy and VP Binay, to quote as follows:     

**“WHEREAS, some of our returning OFWs failed in their business endeavors for lack of  entrepreneurial preparation, short of knowledge in savings mobilizations and unguided investment schemes resulting into failures and bankruptcy. In view of this, we strongly believed that a separate agency or institution is necessary to handle the complex issue of OFW Economic Reintegration. In line with the Presidents’ commitment for transformational leadership and the governments’ agenda that working abroad would not be anymore a necessity for Filipinos; WE therefore urge the President to facilitate the creation of a special body whose task is to craft up policies and comprehensive approach as well as concrete mechanisms for OFW Reintegration Program.**

Three days ago Romie Cahucom in his new blog entry “Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislationexplains the necessity why our Congress should pass a comprehensive OFW reintegration legislation as early as possible. What was happening in Middle East and the natural calamity that hit Japan means displacement and suffering  for our modern day heroes.  Therefore, the government must be economically prepared for the eventual return of OFWs.

Click here>>> to read more “Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislation.

Binay to set up foundation for the needs of distressed OFWs


Riyadh, KSA: Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay arrived and tired from Qatar  fulfills his promise to met Filipino Community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last Friday, April 1, 2011 at Liwasang Bonifacio ground of the Philippine Embassy,  to tackle OFW issues and concerns. But prior to that, Binay visited first the Bahay Kalinga (Filipino Workers Resource Center) to see for himself the real situation of the Filipina distressed workers housed in the mentioned shelter.

Philippine Delegation (seated): Alexander Aguilar of HDMF, former Agusan Del Sur Congressman Rodolfo "Ompong" Plaza, VP Jojo Binay & CDA Ezz Tago.

He vowed to create a foundation that could supplement to the needs of the distressed OFWs in emergency situation such as availability of  funds in securing tickets for immediate repatriation of those OFWs who have already the clearance to leave Saudi Arabia.

During the open forum, he was asked about why  there’s been such a long delay in making the appointment of a new Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom, Binay said “an appointment had already been made but  he can’t reveal it at the moment who the appointee was.” But it was noticed that the Vice President addressed Philippine Embassy Charge D’ Affaires Ezzedin Tago,  as “Ambassador”.  

Binay who is also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Affairs, said that a technical committee in Manila was formed to review the issue of the host country’s temporary ban on deployment of Filipina Household Service Workers. The OFW Congress-Riyadh on the other hand presented to Vice President Binay a letter supporting the temporary ban and perhaps stops sending FHSW in the host country.

FilCom leaders Engr. Eli Mua, Gob Dimalotang, Alex Bello, Jhune Barbadillo

The letter expressed deep concern of our FHSW on their welfare and safety. There are more countless stories that can be shared by our “kababayans” which to them can no longer be erased and will just remain a traumatic experience that will hound them in the remaining years of their lives. The risks  is too much for us to take, although, we are aware that sending these domestic helpers here in the kingdom would somehow decrease the rate  of unemployment in the Philippines and will bring additional dollar remittances to the country  however, we should also try to weigh our concerns.” The letter also challenges the Philippine government and Filipino Community leaders in the kingdom, asking “which is bigger in scope and responsibility? The dollar remittances or their welfare and safety.”  The letter also includes,  expediting the status of those OFWs in Death Rows and working for a possible commutation of their death sentences.

Aside from labor matters, the Vice President is expecting to discuss trade and investment with officials of the Saudi government. The Philippine delegation led by Binay are former Senator Kit Tatad, former Philippine Congress representatives, Apolinario “Jun” Lozada of Negros Occidental and Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza of Agusan Del Sur, Jesus Varela and Alexander Aguilar of Home Development Mutual Fund, former Governor Ben Loong of Sulu, and Binay’s son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay –end-