Saudi Arabia will shoulder all expenses related to the planned mass repatriation of thousands of stranded Filipino workers in the Kingdom.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III met with Saudi counterpart Mofarrej Saad Alhoqubani to thresh out plans on how to repatriate an estimated 2,000 OFWs.
“The government of Saudi Arabia will bear all the cost and we are now to provide all things including tickets to reach their country,” Alhoqubani said.
Bello said the proposed repatriation period are from now until the start of Hajj, when Islam faithful make their annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
“We are starting August 20 up to September 9, kasi magsisimula na yung Hajj (because the Hajj will be starting), we hope to bring back at least 1,000 migrant workers,” Bello said.
The Saudi labor chief said lawyers will be assigned to help facilitate the claims of workers with unpaid salaries and other benefits.
On the Philippines’ side, Bello said, claims will be handled by the Public Attorney’s Office and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, so Filipino workers returning to the Philippines need not worry about leaving unpaid salaries unsettled.
“Inaasikaso na yan ng PAO, sila gagawa ng mga documentation at ang office ng labor attache ang magfo-follow up,” Bello said, dismissing fears that government officials will take the money meant for OFWs.
Both labor chiefs said the repatriation comes without prejudice to those who wish to stay and work in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government also allows Filipinos to look for new jobs with other companies if they wish to do so.
“We give three options, one is to stay and find another employer but still keep his right to go after the company for his claims. Second is to go home and also assign someone to go after his claims in the company, and third if he decides to stay with the company,” Alhoqubani said.
Bello is calling on other undocumented Filipinos in Saudi Arabia to approach labor offices in Riyadh, Jeddah or Al Khobar so they can receive assistance in returning to the Philippines.