By Samuel P. Medenilla, December 14 2018; Business Mirror
Image Credit to Migrante International
Around 7,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have been displaced from their jobs, as the Arab country continues to reel from its economic woes, according to the Migrante International (MI).
In its year-end media conference on Wednesday, MI Coordinator for Rights and Welfare Assistance Gina Esguerra disclosed the figures only represent the count of “distressed” OFWs, who have sought assistance from their organization.
These OFWs are currently stranded in KSA after their companies declared bankruptcy and were unable to pay their benefits.
Many of them, Esguerra said, were employees by Al Azmeel Contracting and Construction Corp., Rakan Trading and Contracting Co., and SAMAMA Co. for Operation and Management.
Labor officials confirmed the rising number of displaced workers in KSA.
“Number one reason for that is the economic reversal [in KSA]. Another reason is ‘Saudization,’ wherein certain industries [in Saudi] are now reserved for Saudi nationals,” Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard B. Olalia told the BusinessMirror.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III has already ordered the creation of a task force to monitor and assist the distressed OFWs still stranded in KSA.
Bello tasked the Philippine Overseas Labor Office to submit a regular report, and to assess the situation and to assist the OFWs in KSA, while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) was instructed to facilitate their welfare assistance and repatriation.
Last week the OWWA repatriated 109 of these workers.
For his part, Olalia said he already ordered the suspension of the license of B.M.C.A.R.T International Recruitment and Placement Service Inc. for failing to report on the status of the workers it deployed to Azmeel Contracting and Construction Corp.
“This is necessary since it might deploy more OFWs…but its obligation to repatriate its workers stays,” Olalia said.
Migrante International, however, expressed frustration over the slow pace of the delivery of government aid to the displaced workers.
Migrante International noted the ongoing trend in KSA will ultimately impact not only the affected OFWs, but the country’s economy.
As one of the top OFW destinations in the Middle East, KSA hosts over a million Filipinos.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported that OFW remittances from the Arab state declined by 12.3 percent to $1.6 billion in September, from $1.8 billion in the same period in 2017.
Migrante International Chairman Arman Hernando attributed the to decline to the fluctuating price of oil, one of main exports of KSA, in the international market. “This was followed by the closure of companies, where Filipinos work,” Hernando said. He said the trend, which started as early as 2014, could also be observed in other oil-producing Middle Eastern countries.
No less than Bello expressed concern over the trend since it will cause more displacement of OFWs.