MANILA — Only around 2,000 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in Saudi Arabia remain to be repatriated, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported on Tuesday.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the number was down from a high of almost 11,000 distressed OFWs in Saudi Arabia that were reported before President Rodrigo R. Duterte came into office.
“We have succeeded in bringing back 3,000 OFWs while the rest have managed to find good-paying jobs in other companies. That made it easier for us,” Bello said during a press briefing in Malacañang.
The Labor Secretary said that protecting the rights of Filipino workers is among President Duterte’s priorities.
“That is my marching order from the President, how to protect their (OFWs) rights while they are there,” Bello said.
According to Bello, there are about 4.8 million OFWs throughout the world with two million working in the Middle East and 900,00 in Saudi Arabia alone.
Bello said that the government had also dispatched a team of lawyers to Saudi Arabia to pursue the unpaid wages claims of the retrenched OFWs.
Earlier, President Duterte promised the distressed OFWs that the government will help them in claiming their unpaid wages.
“We are talking of millions (of pesos) here in unpaid wages. Each OFW is worth more than PHP 1 million, including separation pay,” the Labor Secretary said.
“However, they have not yet been paid but the King of Saudi Arabia has already directed their lawyers to coordinate with our lawyers to help them follow-up our claims there. What is important is that there is now a process,” Bello said. Cielito Reganit/PNA-northboundasia.com