8 February 2007 Thursday, OFW Congress-Riyadh Executive Council members met the new Philippine envoy to Saudi Arabia in a Welcome Dinner in his honor at Peking Restaurant.
His Excellency Ambassador Antonio Villamor laid down his program of office and action plans to address specific issues that concern OFWs in the Kingdom. He pointed out that under his supervision, fast and efficient service at the Philippine Embassy is one of the many reforms he is going to introduce. Adding that as a public office Philippine Embassy officials and staff should serve the OFWs in a courteous manner.
However, he requested the Filipino Community through its various organizations and community leaders to help him identify the needed reforms to see to it that fellow Filipinos are being provided excellent services they truly deserve. He cited one particular problem about the Kingdom’s lengthy procedures in processing documentation requirements for the repatriation of the bodies of OFWs died in the Kingdom. Usually, effortless and non-coordination of employers contributed much to the delay of the repatriation of the OFW remains to home country. These must be addressed accordingly and the Embassy should find solution to this problem, he added.
As for the distressed OFWs in the Kingdom, he said that since he assumes the office (1 month and 20 days) he is in constant dialogue with Embassy, POLO and OWWA officials on how to address the situation.
He emphasized further that he is in line with the new DOLE policy on the deployment of Filipina Household Service Workers. At this point, the OFW Congress Executive Council gave a positive response to the Ambassador as a sign of support to the new DOLE policy. The group however, in 2004 Riyadh Filcom Forum Resolution recommended to PGMA that the minimum age for the hiring of Filipina domestic workers in the Middle East should be 30 years of age.
The dinner meeting with the good Ambassador was indeed a very solemn and productive one. It provides an avenue to interact on specific issues that the Filipino community leaders should impart and strive cooperation & teamwork with the Philippine mission in the Kingdom.
Mr. Abdul Gaafar “Gob” Dimalotang of PHILMOWA (Philippine Muslim Overseas Workers Association) offered solution to the present problem concerning Filipino community in Batha. He also made an assurance that through peaceful means and proper intervention of the Filipino community leaders in Riyadh, this mess involving our Filipino brothers in Batha area will put to an end.
Alex Veloso Bello (OFWC President) made a short reminder to Philippine Embassy officials that they should spare time to visit Batha and see to it that our run away male workers in that area have proper documentations or certification issued from the Embassy. This certification can attest that they have pending labor cases with their employers and protect them from arrest due to the absence of Work Permit and or Passport.
Other relevant matters were also discussed such as:
a)The role of the Filipino community in the May 2007 election
b)”Reaching a Hand” an up-coming OFW Forum in the Industrial Area-Riyadh with the Ambassador as guest of honor. This is in line with the new Ambassador’s program of office “reaching out to the community”. The said forum is being organize by KAKAMPI-KSA (Kalipunang Kaakabay ng Manggagawang Pilipino sa Ibayong Dagat), KGS (Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan) and Black Phyton Martial Arts Association in coordination with the OFW Congress-Riyadh
c)Proposed Filipino Community Relations Desk at Philippine Embassy
d)Philippine Embassy should monitor all Philippine Schools in Riyadh
e)OWWA issues and other concerns
The following were present during the Dinner meeting:
1) His Excellency Ambassador Antonio Villamor
2) Attache’ Rey Banda (Case & Legal Officer, ANS Phil. Embassy)
OFW Congress (Executive Council members)
1) Mr. Alex Veloso Bello
2) Engr. Jaafar Angkaya
3) Engr. Robert Ramos
4) Engr. Dante Pangcoga
5) Engr. Allan Macabangkit
6) Engr.Faizal Sharque
7) Engr. Macario Escober
8) Mr. Bioux Manilum
9) Engr. Romeo Sinamban
10) Mr. and Mrs. Francis Oca
11) Mr. Abdul Gaafar “Gob” Dimalotang
12) Mr. Manuel Amora