In a joint hearing, the Committee on Government Reorganization represented by its vice chairman, Manila Teachers Party-list Representative Virgilio Lacson, and the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs led by its chairman, Buhay Party-list Representative Mariano Michael Velarde, Jr., approved the motion of Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin to create the working group.
Lacson said the creation of a DOFW aims to promote the overall welfare, rights and needs of OFWs, which is a fitting recognition of the significant contribution of OFWs to national economic progress.
The members of the working group are Lacson, ACTS OFW Party-list Representative Aniceto Bertiz III, Kabayan Party-list Representaive Ron Salo and PBA Party-list Representative Mark Aeron Sambar.
The six proposals to establish a DOFW, defining its powers and functions are: House Bill 227 authored by Deputy Speaker Eric Singson; House Bill 288 by 1-PACMAN Party-list Representative Michael Romero; House Bill 543 by Pangasinan 3rd District Representative Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas; House Bill 822 by Bohol 3rd District Representative Arthur Yap ; House Bill 1936 by Las Piñas Representative Mark Villar and House Bill 2334 by Tarlac 1st District Representative Carlos Cojuangco.
The two committees also discussed House Bill 192 authored by Bertiz and House Bill 3255 by DIWA Party-list Representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, both seeking to create the Department of Migration and Development (DMD), which aims to implement and promote programs for the protection, safety, and development of all Filipino migrants and families.
To my fellow OFWs, please note of the following Memorandum Circulars Nos. 3 and 4 respectively issued by the POEA to Licensed Recruitment Agencies in the Philippines.
OFWs should be aware that the recruitment agencies that deployed OFWs have an obligation to assist and monitor the welfare of their deployed overseas Filipino workers. Therefore, be reminded that recruitment agencies cannot just ignore a call or complaint from an OFW in distress against their foreign principals/employers.
Likewise, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office should always be ready to serve and hear the grievances of our fellow OFWs and proper coordination with the recruitment agencies must be made at all times.
The Consular Outreach Missions or “Embassy On Wheels” popularly known as “EOW” that are currently implemented by our Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and Philippine Consulate in Jeddah is an effort to bring its services closer to OFWs. The services include Passport Services (new, renewal, releasing, extension), Notarials, Authentication and Certifications, Police clearance Endorsement, Civil Registry and among others.
The EOW provides services to those OFWs in far flung areas in the eastern and the western Region of Saudi Arabia where there are many OFWs. Main cities in this regions are chosen as venue for the EOW and the online appointment was set up to avail the services.
However, our blog received numerous negative comments about our fellow OFWs expectations when in comes to the online booking appointment for passport related services.
Let us just be considerate that Saudi Arabia is hosting almost a million OFWs and the lack of bigger venue may be the reason why our consular outreach program cannot accommodate those OFWs wishing to have their passport renewed. A quota or a number of confirmed appointment is necessary and that is why the schedule for consular outreach through online appointment is usually full for about two to three months in advance. In my understanding once it is full, the online appointment system is block for those who wish to avail the system.
There were also confusing announcement through media that appointments for consular outreach services or “Embassy on Wheels” (EOW) will be made available five (5) days before the actual schedule. The actual schedule is announced in advance through the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Consulate websites.
The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh alone extends 183,484 consular services in 2015 and most of it are passport related services. While the effort is very laudable, implementing it efficiently using the online appointment system is a whole different ball game. Our DFA/Embassy/Consulate should find solutions both the online appointment and the actual scheduling. Perhaps delve deeper how to improve its outreach program and introduced a larger venue and or setting an online system that could accommodate a greater range of available slots based on the scheduled appointment dates.
Fellow OFWs should also be aware of their passport expiration dates and book appointment online six months prior to its expiration and check our Philippine Embassy (http://riyadhpe.dfa.gov.ph/) and Philippine Consulate (http://jeddahpcg.dfa.gov.ph/) websites for update and change of EOW schedules. Also note that our Embassy/Consulate is doing their job and continue their unwavering commitment to serve the Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. – BongA
11 August 2016 – Consulate officials led by Consul General Imelda Panolong met with Mr. Abdullah Bin Mohammed Alolayan, General Director of the Ministry of Labor (MOL) in Makkah region, to discuss the cases of stranded Filipino workers in light of the recent directive of Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, to hasten the resolution of cases of stranded expatriate workers. During the meeting Mr. Alolayan said that the MOL has already dispatched teams to the different camps of Saudi Oger to assist the stranded workers of the company. They have been providing food, water and medical assistance to the workers of Saudi Oger in all its camps in Jeddah.
To resolve the case of the stranded workers in Saudi Oger, Mr. Alolayan said the workers have the option to either go home on final exit or transfer to another company. The Saudi government, through MOL and Immigration (Jawazat), will renew expired residence permits (Iqama), and provide exit visas and plane tickets to the workers who wish to leave. MOL noted that several companies have approached them offering to absorb workers from Saudi Oger. MOL shall facilitate the matching of the job requirements of these companies with those workers who want to be transferred. For workers with unpaid salaries and benefits, they may issue a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) in favor of the Consulate to process the entitlements due them. Workers who are not affected and do not experience delays in their salaries may continue to work. Mr. Alolayan promised to coordinate closely with the Philippine Consulate to facilitate the early resolution of the cases of the stranded Filipino workers.
Also present during the meeting were Consul Rodney Jonas L. Sumague, Labor Attaché Jainal T. Rasul, Jr. and Mr. Muhammad Mahmour S. Qassim (Translator/Interpreter/Conciliator).
Prior to the meeting with MOL, Consul General Panolong, Consul Sumague, Labor Attaché Rasul and Welfare Officer Angel Cruz, Jr., met with officials of the Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) to discuss the cases of affected Filipino workers in the company. Present during the meeting representing SBG were Mr. Khaled J. Thabet, HR Support Services Manager; Mr. Abdullah Y. Balkhair, Talent Management and Development Manager; Mr. Abdulrahman Alsurawi, Head of Complaints Unit; and Ms. Rocel Castro-Samillano, Recruitment Coordinator.
Mr. Thabet informed the Consulate officials that 2,429 Filipino workers are presently still working under SBG in the whole of K.S.A. while 1,069 have signified their intention to go home. Their exit visas and final settlement of benefits are expected to be issued in 2-3 weeks. He gave the assurance that SBG is able to facilitate the exit visas, paying remaining salaries and benefits and providing plane tickets to their workers who want to go home. They may execute a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) in favor of the Consulate to follow up their entitlements if they are unable to wait for its release. Mr. Thabet added that SBG continues to regularly provide food to their workers. Nevertheless, they will investigate reports that there are some project camps which have not been given food and water as raised by the Consulate officials.
On the future of SBG, Mr. Thabet said the company is optimistic that it will recover very soon. Consul General Panolong noted that the 2,429 Filipino workers who opted to continue to work is a positive sign that augurs well for the recovery of the company. Mr. Thabet responded that SBG feels fortunate that the Filipino workers are staying and he further assured the Consulate officials of closer coordination to address the concerns of Filipino workers. END
Notice about Financial Assistance for Stranded OFWs specified in OWWA MOI No. 008, Series of 2016 dated 25 July 2016
According to OWWA MOI No. 008, the recipient of financial assistance are only to those stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia from the following companies: Saudi Bin Laden Group, Saudi Oger, Mohammad Al Mojil Group, Mohammad Hameed Al Barghash & Bros. Trading & Construction Co. , ALUMCO L.L.L.C, Rajeh H. Al Merri Contracting and Trading Company, Fawzi Al Salah- Nairani Contracting Company, Arabtec Construction L.L.C, and Real Estate Development and Investment Company.
The Financial Assistance Application Form must come from POLO. Forms must have POLO stamps and signed/with a signature of the OWWA Officer. Other forms that comes or obtained from different origins are not accepted.
Only designated or authorized employees of POLO (Riyadh, Jeddah or Riyadh) are permitted to list the names of the stranded OFWs and provide them with application forms for financial assistance.
The Application Forms will be brought by POLO-OWWA Officers to the camps mentioned companies. They also get the application forms from the camp. There will be a validation procedure to be conducted by POLO. The releasing of the financial assistance will be released in the same camp by the POLO-OWWA assistance officers. The Coordinators in each camp who regularly interact with the POLO will be informed on the schedule for the release of the assistance fund.
The live-out staffs of such companies are advised to await the announcement of the selected Coordinators at each site about the POLO schedules intended for them. The POLO office will provide transportation or transportation expenses will be provided to the designated coordinators who facilitated the application and any required documents from POLO.
Recipient stranded OFWs must show their company IDs, and submit copies of iqama/work permit even expired, or a copy of the passport before receiving financial assistance.
Proxy or Representative is not allowed to apply or receive financial assistance on behalf of the stranded OFWs.
The financial assistance funds are coming from the OWWA Funds and the OWWA Welfare Officers are accountable for the funds.
The above mentioned requirements or procedures are necessary as regulatory compliance of the Commission on Audit. (July 31, 2016)
For the official Pilipino or tagalog version of the Philippine Embassy Advisory, please click here >>>>>>>
July 28th, 2016: The Center for Migrant Advocacy is urging the current administration to look into the still widespread exploitation and abuse of Filipino women migrant workers, in particular those working as domestic workers, as noted by the recently released concluding observations of the 64th Session of CEDAW (UN-Convention On the Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women) on the Philippines.
While CMA welcomes President Duterte’s plans to place OFWs as a priority labor agenda, the current plight of OFWs, especially domestic workers, needs urgent action.
Last July 5, the Philippine government, as a state party to the UN Convention, had a constructive dialogue with the CEDAW Committee to report on the state of all human rights of all women in the country, including Filipino women migrants.
The UN Committee welcomes the adoption of the amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 2010 (Republic Act No. 10022) to protect migrant workers working in the State party, but expressed its concerns on the widespread abuse among Filipino domestic workers abroad, and the insufficient support system to reintegrate returning women OFWs. The Committee also added that the protection of migrant workers under the ASEAN migration policies does not cover unskilled migrants, who constitute the majority of Filipino women OFWs.
It recommends that the country enhance its efforts to effectively protect the rights of Filipino women OFWs abroad through bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding with countries and regions to which Filipino women migrate in search of work.
The UN body also encourages the country to strengthen its regulation and inspection of recruitment agencies for migrant workers and the sanctions in case of breaches of relevant regulations, including the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of exploitation and abuse of women migrant workers under its jurisdiction.
The CMA believes that while providing a significant portion in the annual multibillion dollar remittances, the domestic workers are among the most exploited subgroup within the Filipino migrant workers, hence, the need to provide gender-responsive support to returning women migrant workers for their reintegration.
(Original title: Statement of the Center for Migrant Advocacy on the Concluding Observations of CEDAW on the Philippines and the recent SONA of President Rodrigo Duterte 26 July 2016. Contact: Ms. Ellene Sana Contact No: 0915 178 1308)
Source: Global Nation Inquirer.net
We lauded the personal visit of DOLE Secretary Bebot Bello, POEA Administrator Hans-Leo Cacdac and other government officials in Saudi Arabia to look deep into the matter of the reported stranded OFWs of Saudi Oger Co. Ltd., and Saudi Binladdin Group; and so with the alleged negligence of the Philippine mission in Saudi Arabia to act on the issue at hand.
What is absolutely true is that the problem of unpaid salaries or delayed salaries, and keeping of OFWs passport by their employers and many other complaints have been there for many years now.
The POEA should give more teeth on the Rules and Regulations for the accreditation of Saudi employers to hire OFWs. Likewise, the recruitment agencies should be more cautious in selecting Saudi employers and crafting recruitment agreement with more favorable conditions in the interest and welfare of aspiring OFWs bound for Saudi Arabia.
I believed that our Philippine Overseas Labor Office, the OWWA and Philippine mission in general are doing their job of negotiating those companies involved in the said disputes, to come up with a comprehensive solution to the workers’ grievances.
Saudi Oger Co., Ltd., and the Saudi Binladdin Group are big companies in Saudi Arabia and was established many decades ago. These companies employed thousands of Filipino workers way back in the 70s, 80s and 90s during the blooming period of construction and infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia. There were many OFWs returned home who had benefited working in these companies. Though, like the huge companies in other parts of the world, Saudi Arabia today faces economic challenges. We cannot blame those companies to have their internal situation be remedied first to be able to deal with their respective worsening financial problem.
On the other side, some of our stranded OFWs refused to go home exploring the possibility of reaching a settlement agreement with their employers and collect those unpaid salaries, end of service benefits, among others. For them, waiting is the best option rather than go home without nothing to bring to their families back home.
In Saudi Arabia, expatriate workers can only leave their employers once the exit clearance is issued. In the present situation, the Philippine government should request through a special arrangement with Saudi Immigration and Deportation to issue a block exit visa for all those stranded OFWs who wants to be repatriated. For those who refused, the government should convince them to go home and all those repatriated should be provided with livelihood opportunities.
The Philippine Labor Office should continue and exert more effort in the negotiating table with their employers until such time that a settlement is reached. The monetary settlement of their delayed salaries and End of Service Benefits will be sent to the OFWs once available.
Many foreign diplomats I met when I was working in a Saudi government institution says “the most hardship posting they have been is in Saudi Arabia.” How much more to a Labor Attache who takes care of thousands if not almost a million of their nationals? To be fair, those Philippine Labor Attaches’ in Jeddah and Riyadh are experienced and seasoned labor attaches’, they have been posted back to Saudi Arabia several times after the end of their tour of duties in other countries. They solved many OFWs grievances and complaints unrecognized but it is in the Filipino nature that we forget the good deeds for one honest fault.
For me, to address the problem of our stranded OFWs is not by recalling our Labor Attaches who knows the real situation at hand, but to order them to prioritize our distressed OFWs grievances and come up with a concrete solution at the earliest possible time. We couldn’t solve the entire problem by replacing our current labor attache’s to a new ones who are not familiar with the situation. Perhaps, we will give them the opportunity to do something or to prove their worth as our representative overseeing the plight of our OFWs – at least for now, prior recalling them back home.
Nonetheless, I should say that the Philippine mission in Saudi Arabia should be reprimanded for failing to provide to our stranded OFWs with monetary aid, food and shelter on time of their needs. – BongA
18 July 2016 – Last June 2016, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) sent a Rapid Response Team (RRT) to assist OFWs stranded in work camps throughout Saudi Arabia. The DFA RRT found that at least 11,000 OFWs in several large Saudi construction and maintenance companies and their sub-contractors were not paid their salaries on time, ranging from 2 to 6 months. Some OFWs were also no longer receiving food allowances and were threatened with eviction from their accommodations. The DFA RRT provided immediate humanitarian assistance to these OFWs, and brought their situation to the attention of the senior officials of these companies, and with the Saudi government authorities.
Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Ziyad Alsaigh and Saudi Foreign Affairs Deputy Undersecretary for Consular Affairs Ambassador Tammim Al Dusairi assured DFA RRT that the Saudi government will look into the situation of the OFWs and provide necessary assistance. The DFA also brought the situation of the OFWs to the attention of the Saudi Embassy in Manila. The DFA, in coordination with DOLE and its attached agencies, will send a high level delegation and composite rapid response teams to Saudi Arabia in the coming days to ensure assistance to the OFWs soonest.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr. recently approved the release of funds for the repatriation of 171 OFWs stranded in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. The DFA will also provide them with legal assistance to pursue their claims for unpaid wages, and other benefits before the Saudi labor courts.
The DFA will continue to closely monitor the situation of OFWs in Saudi Arabia and other countries, and to provide necessary legal, humanitarian and other consular assistance to OFWs in distress. END.
This blog post is to inform our fellow OFWs that the POEA rules and regulations governing the recruitment and employment of landbased OFWs have been revised on February 2016.
Some of the answers to our readers inquires or salient portion of the provisions of the revised POEA rules and regulations 2016 are herein provided for our guide.
A: Disciplinary Action against Principal/Employer
Salient portions of some provisions that fellow OFWs should note that principals and or employer unauthorized/unjustified collection of fee or illegal exaction from OFWs through whatever means, including salary deduction are serious offense and grounds for disciplinary actions against employers that could lead to permanent disqualification and delisting from the roster of accredited principal or employer.
In the above provision otherwise, OFWs should be reminded that a placement fee “may be charged against the Overseas Filipino Worker equivalent to one (1) month basic salary as specified in the POEA approved contract”. However, in Saudi Arabia, the employer’s usual practice has to pay the worker placement fee to the recruitment agency and to be paid by the OFW through salary deduction. There are many employers in the Middle East that are doing this kind of arrangements. It may be allowed with a written acceptance by the OFW. But be noted that the salary deduction scheme is not allowed in other countries of destination.
Permanent disqualification of the principal to hire OFWs includes “substitution or alteration of the POEA approved contract to the prejudice of the Overseas Filipino Worker.” Therefore, OFWs should always be aware that changing of the agreed terms and conditions of POEA approve contract is against POEA rules and regulations.
B: Disciplinary Action against Recruitment agency
Be aware that that recruitment agencies are subject to suspension of license if found “collecting any fee from a worker without issuing the official receipt clearly showing the amount paid and the purpose for which payment was made.”
Provisions that may lead to the suspension of the recruitment agency’s license in the revised POEA rules and regulations includes:
“Substituting or altering, to the prejudice of the worker, a POEA-approved employment contract, from the time of actual signing thereof by the parties up to and including the period of the expiration of the same, without the approval of the POLO or POEA”.
Therefore, any alteration or substitution of the agreed employment contract terms and conditions if the case may arise should be approved by our POLO and or POEA.
“Withholding or denying release of travel or other pertinent documents from a worker despite demand and failure to reimburse expenses incurred by the worker in connection with his/her documentation and processing for purposes of deployment, where deployment does not take place without any fault on the part of the worker.”
All the above offense committed by the recruitment agency may result in the revoking or suspension of their license or whatever penalties as to be concluded by the POEA.
C: Disciplinary Action against Overseas Filipino Workers
If there is a disciplinary action to be taken against employers and recruitment agency, an OFW should also be aware that penalties await us if an offense is committed during the pre-employment period.
The number one that we should be aware of is “submitting, furnishing or using false information or documents or any form of misrepresentation for the purpose of a job application or employment.” The penalties are categorized into three in which could lead to permanent disqualification from participation in the overseas employment program.
Another offense that I found relevant to many of our readers’ inquiries is the “unjustified refusal to continue his/her application after signing an employment contract, or to depart for the work site after all employment and travel documents have been duly approved by the appropriate government agencies.” Penalties could be a “suspension in a certain period of time and permanent disqualification from participation in the overseas employment program.”
But in this particular scenario the POEA will determine the offense upon review of the complaint raised by the recruitment agency. If an offense is committed, it means unjustifiable reasons for withdrawal of documents or refusal to depart for the work site may result in disqualification of OFWs in future application to work overseas.
Primary Responsibility to Repatriate Overseas Filipino Workers. – Notwithstanding the provisions on compulsory insurance coverage as required by law, the repatriation of an Overseas Filipino Worker or his/her remains, and the transport of his/her personal effects shall be the primary responsibility of the principal/employer and licensed recruitment agency that recruited and/or deployed the work. This entails the obligation to cover repatriation and attendant costs, including airfare and immigration fines/penalties. This obligation shall be without prior determination of the cause of the need to repatriate the Overseas Filipino Worker.
However, kindly be informed that the POEA Revised Rules and Regulations says “after the Overseas Filipino Worker has returned to the country, the principal/employer or licensed recruitment agency may, however, recover the cost of repatriation from the Overseas Filipino Worker if the termination of the employment was due solely to the Overseas Filipino Worker’s fault.”
Click here>>> RULE XIII REPATRIATION OF WORKERS (OMNIBUS RULES AND REGULATIONS IMPLEMENTING THE MIGRANT WORKERS AND OVERSEAS FILIPINOS ACT OF 1995, AS AMENDED BY REPUBLIC ACT NO. 10022)
Click here>>> OFW Compulsory Insurance or OFWs Mandatory Insurance Coverage.
Click here>>> STANDARD EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT FOR VARIOUS SKILLS (No. 14 : TERMINATION)