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DOLE assures aid for stranded OFWs availing of Saudi amnesty grant

MANILA, March 30 (PNA) -- The government will be providing assistance for the immediate repatriation of some 5,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This moves comes after the country's implementation of an amnesty program for stranded migrant workers.

"Ang Saudi government nagbigay ng amnesty para sa ating mga stranded employees doon, sa mga OFWs... So ang gagawin namin doon is to facilitate the repatriation of the remaining mga stranded OFWs," said Labor and Employment Undersecretary Dominador Say in an interview.

"So we will be setting up mga centers kung saan kami magpoprocess ng kanilang papers. We are looking at mga 5,000 ang mapauwi," he added.

Say urged Filipino workers who are illegally staying in the said country to avail of the 90-day amnesty program by the Saudi government.

"Sa loob ng tatlong buwan kailangan mapauwi na. Dahil kapag nawala na yung amnesty, magbabayad na sila ng kanilang exit papers, mga Iquama, certificate of no objection from employer. Sa loob ng 90 days kailangan na namin maprocess at mapaalis na," he explained.

The DOLE official noted that they are looking to ask the employers to give separation pay to the OFWs.

"We will ensure na may makukuha nga para kapag dating nila dito iaadvance na ng Philippine government, ng OWWA funds or pondo ng department of labor para habang naghahantay sila may pera na sila dito. Kami na lang ang kukuha ng kanilang receivables," he said.

At the same time, he is optimistic that the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte which is scheduled on the second week of April, will be a fruitful one for the benefit of the workers.

"Just to take advantage of the 90 days amnesty na binigay ng Saudi Arabia. And then we are also looking at certain bilateral agreements na puwede pa nating makuha and other matter na puwede hingiin ni Presidente sa King ng Saudi Arabia like pardon ng mga nakakulong and many matters," Say added.

Asked on how much is the budget for the mission, he said, "Hindi ko lang alam ang ball park figure but we are looking at 5,000 then multiply that by the amount of the plane fare para makarating lang sila dito. Dahil hindi inassume ng Saudi Arabia ang pamasahe."

"Kasi it is really should be the employers ang magbabayad, but we understand they are under distress. Huwag na natin patagalin sa pagturo kung sino ang magbabayad. the Philippine government na siguro," he added.

The DOLE official noted that once the OFWs are back in the Philippines, the government will provide them due assistance.

"There are a lot of assistance na puwedeng ibigay sa kanila. may mga emergency livelihood naman na ibibigay. May pondo naman na ipapahiram kung may negosyo sila na maiisip. Natingnan na iyan jointly ng Bureau of Local Employment at saka Overseas Workers Welfare Administration," Say added. (PNA)
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