Medicine Donations Make Up for OWWA Inadequacy
By: Bien Custodio (Arab News: 7/20/2003)
RIYADH, 20 July 2003 — The bad news is that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Manila has been slow in releasing the monthly medical allowance for distressed Filipino workers abroad.
The good news is that here in Riyadh, there are plenty of companies and individuals who are willing to help.
Late last month, Al-Jazeera Pharmaceuticals donated 25,000 riyals worth of medicines for various ailments for OFWs housed at the Philippine Embassy’s “Bahay Kalinga” and other distressed workers.
Ambassador Bahnarim Guinomla, along with Labor Attaché Manuel Roldan and Dr. Ray Suanding, received the donation at the embassy from officials and representatives of Al-Jazeera.
“This will go a long way in helping alleviate the health conditions of our workers who need the medicines,” Guinomla said during a simple ceremony, as he cited the company’s executives for their “generosity and humanitarian concern.”
He awarded plaques of appreciation to Dr. Khader Muhammad Jarwan, Mohammad Erfan Othman Al Sheik Ali, Khalid Abdullah Hasoon, Riyadh Abu Yousej, Ahmed Qasim Basheer Zoubi, Hashem Ahmad Nazr, Imran Nazeem, Federico P. Saldivar and Raymundo V. Garcia.
Guinomla also commended Filipino community leaders who helped solicit the donations, especially those from the Pusong Mamon Task Force, Suportahan Ta Ka, E-Lagda and ICOFVR.
Among those present during the program were Madam Guinomla, Vice Consul Adrian Cruz and his wife Citadel, Cultural Attaché Carmelita Hidalgo, Cris and Marilyn Lavina, Rashid Fabricante, Rudy Elix, Ronnie Abeto, Bong Amora, Sanny Ingco and other officers of KAKAMPI.
Last October, the Saudi Pharmaceuticals Industry and Medical Appliances Corporation (SPIMACO) also donated 14 boxes of medicines to Bahay Kalinga, the temporary shelter for distressed OFWs.
Suanding, the doctor sent to Riyadh by the Philippine government to help distressed OFWs under an experimental project, said the donations are most welcome because the last time the OWWA main office in Manila released the $400 monthly medical allowance for OFWs in Riyadh was in December.
He said a good number of distressed or stranded workers whom he had seen have health problems.
Hypertension was common among those aged 50 and above “maybe due to age and aggravated by stress,” he said. Other health problems noted were respiratory, such as bronchitis and common colds. There are also a number of diabetics, he said.
He said he had informed Angel Borja, OWWA officer in Riyadh, of the discontinued provision of the health allowance and was told that the issue is under verification.
OWWA was created by the Philippine government to look after the welfare of distressed OFWs. It was not clear why the agency had been reported to be having financial difficulties even though it continues to extract $25 for every OFW leaving the Philippines for work abroad.
According to Labor Attaché Jainal Rasul, the outgoing chief of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Bahay Kalinga continues to receive an average of 3 to 4 runaways a day but there was no overcrowding.
He said there were 73 OFWs at the shelter as of Wednesday and eight were scheduled for repatriation in the next few days.
He admitted that there were delays in the repatriation of some who were waiting for their plane tickets to be provided by their former employers.
Some have opted to stay and wait for the release of their financial claims from their employers, he added.
In its midyear report which still under preparation, headed by Rasul recorded a total of 575 distressed female workers housed at Bahay Kalinga from January to June 2003. Of the number, 457 had been repatriated.
During the same period, the Philippine labor office had provided tickets to 163 stranded males, and “returned” 316 to their employers through amicable settlements, the report said.