The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Families of some 200 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in Saudi Arabia are asking President Benigno Aquino III to facilitate their return to the country.
Some of the workers have been without jobs for close to a year now and have been forced to stay at the Polo-Owwa (Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) shelter after they refused to renew their contract with their employers due to labor violations, maltreatment, and abuse.
May Balmeo said her father, Juanito, had called them to narrate their woeful condition in their shelter, and ask for government intervention on their case.
“They just want to get home, they don’t care anymore if they would not get anything from the company,” Balmeo said.
Balmeo’s father, Juanito, has been a driver in Saudi Arabia for nine years.
Garry Martinez, Migrante International national chairman, said Juanito was insulin-dependent and needed regular medical attention.
Evelyn Banez, wife of an OFW formerly employed in Al-Swayeh company, said the workers are relying only on donations from non-government organizations and individuals because they could no longer work.
Banez said OWWA promised to shoulder the plane tickets of the stranded OFWs, but that they could not get an exit visa because the document would be issued by the employer.
The relatives of the OFWs on Monday faced a news conference together with Bayan Muna partylist Representative Teddy Casino to seek help for their kin.
The stranded workers were former employees of Al Swayeh company, Al-Zahran, Al-Naseeb Establishment, Al Sabillah, and Al Phat.
They were all deployed to Saudi by active recruitment agencies licensed by the Philippine Overseas Employees Administration (POEA), namely, Saveway International Man Power, Osims Oriental Skills International Manpower, RPF Business Management & Consultancy Inc, Irsal Employment Services Inc., GBMLT Manpower Services Inc., Nawras Manpower Services Inc. (formerly Nawras Manpower Services), Al Assal Manpower Inc., Matawi, 4 Brothers, and other still unidentified agencies.
The OFWs were all victims of illegal recruitment and contract violations--overcharging of placement fees, contract substitution, collection of fees without official receipts, collection of excessive fees, loans with high interest rates, poor working accommodations, illegal salary deductions, non-issuance of IQAMA (working permit), non-payment of salaries in 10 months to over one year, no overtime pay, underpayment of salaries and non-renewal of expired contracts, residence permits and medical insurances, according to Bayan Muna.
Connie Bragas-Regalado of the Migrante sectoral party, said Malacanang should order the embassy officials to work for the issuance of the exit visa of the OFWs. She said the exit visa is issued by the Saudi government after getting clearance from the employer.
But since the Filipinos have filed cases against their employers because of various labor violations, the employers found a way to get back by not issuing the clearance to the OFWs, she added.
“We can clearly see the hand of the Saudi employers in this case, that’s why the government should now intervene, it can’t be business as usual while the OFWs camp outside the OWWA shelter and go hungry,” Casino said.
“Kung iyong mga nasa death row, naaksyunan ng executive, ito pang mga buhay pa naman na walang dahilan manatili sa pa roon ay dapat may aksyon din,” Casino added.