MANILA, Philippines – The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said that 7,155 unpaid and laid-off overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia have already been given financial assistance as of August 11.
In a press statement, the agency said that P20,000 in financial assistance has already been given to each OFW who were stranded in the kingdom, as well as those who have already been repatriated back to the Philippines.
Families of stranded OFWs, meanwhile, have also been given P6,000 each as part of OWWA's Relief Assistance Program (RAP).
The Philippine Overseas Labor Offices have already distributed cash assistance to a total of 1,764 OFW-claimants in Riyadh, 1,205 claimants in Jeddah, and 379 in Al Khobar.
Meanwhile, OWWA Regional Welfare Offices have already given financial assistance to 510 repatriated OFWs, and served 3,297 claimants or relatives of OFWs still at jobsite.
The total cash assistance for all RAP beneficiaries has reached P96,930,733.98 as of August 11.
Lack of manpower, no master list
The OWWA report comes after migrant rights advocates hit the government for their delayed assistance.
On Thursday, August 11, ACTS-OFW Party-list Representative John Bertiz expressed concern that financial assistance may be delayed because there is no complete record of the OFWs stranded in Saudi Arabia. He also said there was not enough manpower.
"Kasi ang OWWA rin 'di nila alam 'yung laman ng list. Ang list naman ng POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) ay 8,000 lang, pero sa lista ng DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) around 11,000," said Bertiz at the Usaping Balita Media Forum at the Serye Cafe Filipino in Quezon City.
(OWWA doesn't know how many people are on the list. The POEA's list has 8,000, but the DFA listed around 11,000.)
Longtime OFW advocate Susan Ople also said this lack of a unified and accurate master list could be detrimental to the stranded OFWs. (READ: 'What delays aid for 11,000 stranded OFWs in Saudi?' )
"Oras na hiningi ng Saudi Arabia ang listahan ng lahat ng stranded na OFWs, ang pangamba namin baka hindi tayo handa kasi ngayon pa lang, iba-iba 'yung mga figures na binibigay," said Ople.
(Once Saudi Arabia asks for the list of OFWs, my worry is that we may not be ready because as of now, we're giving different figures.)
More than 11,000 migrant workers in 3 major cities in Saudi Arabi – Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam/Al-Khobar – have been in crisis for months after losing their jobs following a plunge in global oil prices.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Wednesday, August 10, that Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud has pledged to help the OFWs.
This includes waiving immigration penalties due to their expired working visas, providing plane fare back to the Philippines, food aid, and assistance for re-employment and legal services. – Rappler.com