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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Order release of funds for airfares of stranded OFWs in Saudi, Aquino urged

 “Why prolong the agony and let the stranded OFWs, some with children, suffer so much staying in a crowded refuge center in Saudi Arabia?” thus asked today by Migrante-Middle East, a Filipino migrant watchdog.


John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said President Benigno Simeon Aquino III should act decisively in approving the release of funds, as requested by Vice President Jejomar Binay, to buy air tickets for the more than 1,084 stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.


On Sunday, Vice Pres. Binay, also presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affairs, requested Malacanang the release an amount of P-24-M to fund the repatriation of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.


“Now that it was no less than the VP Binay made the request to the President, we are expecting that PNoy would act as soon as possible so that the long-overdue repatriation of the 1,084 stranded OFWs in Al-Mina hajj terminal, a temporary shelter rented by the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, and those at the deportation will be arrange as soon as possible,” Monterona added.


Monterona said the Aquino govt. committed a mistake when it slashed the assistance to the nationals and legal assistance funds for OFWs on the approved General appropriation Act or national budget of the government this year. “Budget cut for OFWs funds is a patent disservice to OFWs who are helping the economy afloat through their billions of dollar remittances sent yearly. We are hoping the Aquino govt. should learn lessons from this blunder,” Monterona


"But still, there is the OWWA fund amounting to P13-B, pooled from US$25 compulsory membership of OFWs to OWWA," he cited. 


Monterona said many of the stranded OFWs first have stayed in Khandera Bridge in Jeddah, but were later transferred in Al-Mina hajj terminal and some were endorsed inside the deportation center after Migrante and other OFWs organizations campaigned and demanded that they will be assisted by the PH consulate in Jeddah and look for a temporary shelter while their repatriation formalities are being attended.


“I was informed by the leaders of the stranded OFWs in Jeddah that many of them have already obtained exit clearances and travel documents; but they don’t know what’s delaying their repatriation,” said John Leonard Monterona, who had spoken yesterday to the leaders of stranded OFWs via mobile phone when the latter sought assistance to him.


Monterona said that he could well remember on March 3 he got a chance to speak with Labor attaché Vicente Cabe inquiring the status of the repatriation of the stranded OFWs. “Labatt Cabe confirmed that OFWs whose OWWA membership had already expired could not get airplane fare from OWWA, but instead they would get it from the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Monterona added.


Monterona said: “In such case, then DFA-OUMWA should immediately release the budget for the plane tickets of the majority of the stranded as they have been undocumented for more than 1 year and were not able to renew their OWWA membership.”


“We were told then that there are 200 plane tickets provided by OWWA for the stranded in Jeddah, but Labatt Cabe could not confirm it yet,” Monterona added.


Aside from the 1,000+ stranded OFWs in Jeddah, there also about 120 distress OFWs at the PH embassy-run Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh and about 30+ at POLO-OWWA shelter in the Eastern region.


Monterona added the repatriation of stranded and distress OFWs is a task the Aquino govt. through the DFA and PH embassy must concentrate and give priority.


“If the President is not convinced of the suffering and sacrifices of the stranded OFWs, many of them were victims of abuse and labor malpractices and exploitation of their employers and forced to run away, he himself should visit the stranded and distress OFWs in Saudi Arabia,” Monterona suggested.















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