Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he has recalled the Philippine labor attachés in Riyadh and Jeddah over their supposed inaction on the predicament of stranded and retrenched Filipino workers there.
He said he was disappointed with how the two officials addressed the predicament of some 11,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded either because their work visas have expired or they are waiting for their unpaid wages from their former employers.
Bello said the officers should have extended immediate assistance. He said he’d go to Saudi Arabia to see the situation there first hand and give necessary assistance, like food and medicine.
Bello did not identify the two labor attachés, but according to Jun Rasul, Philippine labor attaché in Jeddah, he is ready to follow Bello’s order and end his tour of duty there. However, he denied that he was negligent in his duties.
Atoy Esguerra, vice chairman of Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group, also disproved Bello’s accusation of inaction on the part of Philippine officials there.
Meanwhile, Rasul said he welcomes Bello’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia. He said he himself will go to Riyadh for Bello’s arrival.
Bello said he had already spoken with Overseas Workers Welfare Administration officials to check specific financial assistance they can immediately disperse to aid the affected OFWs. He will speak with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay to deliberate possible arrangements with the concerned companies in Saudi Arabia so that OFWs with expired work visas can be sent home while their unpaid wages and benefits can be given at the same time.
Though Bello said it will take some time to solve all the concerns that is expected to be raised in his visit, he said one of his primary goals is to send home as many OFWs in Saudi Arabia as possible.