Filipino household workers not yet covered by labor reforms in Saudi Arabia — DFA official

Marje Pelayo   •   September 24, 2021   •   146

MANILA, Philippines – The government is in talks with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as regards cooperation on the welfare and benefits of Filipino household workers there, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Robert Borje said on Thursday.

The Kingdom, he said, is currently implementing labor reforms, however, these do not cover Filipino household workers.

“Mas paiigtingin ang pag-uusap ng Pilipinas at ng KSA kung ano pa ang dapat gawin,” said Borje at Thursday’s Laging Handa press briefing.

“Sa ngayon nga po hindi pa kasama ang household workers natin sa category ng reform, labor reform initiative ng Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pero kasama po ito sa kanilang prayoridad. Iyon po ang kanilang assurance sa atin noong nakausap po natin sila,” he added.

In his speech at the 76th UN General Assembly on Wednesday (September 22), President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call to abolish the ‘kafala system’ or the sponsorship system being imposed in the Arab states used to monitor migrant unskilled workers.

Duterte maintained that “nothing can justify its continued existence.”

Nevertheless, Borje said the government is working continuously to achieve the needed reforms for the protection of Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

“Asahan po ninyo na through the [Department of Labor and Employment] and the Department of Foreign Affairs [DFA] ay gagawain po ang lahat upang maayos at mabigyan ng karampatang atensyon ang reporma,” the official said.

Bello vows justice for OFW raped in Saudi Arabia

Marje Pelayo   •   July 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday (July 5) directed Philippine representatives in Saudi Arabia to take immediate action on the case of a Filipina overseas worker who was raped by her foreign recruiter and abused by her employer there.

Specifically, Bello ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh to initiate appropriate legal steps against the suspects, and impose administrative penalties on the local recruitment agency which deployed the victim.

The OFW identified by the name Michelle was allegedly raped by the owner of the foreign recruitment agency (FDA) and molested by one of her employers before she was repatriated recently.

The Labor Chief directed POLO to take legal action and go after Meshail Mabrook Al Bassani Al Qahtani and employer Abdulaziz Ahlas, owners of Home Comfort Recruitment Office/Home Comfort Manpower Services, for the rape and abuse of the Filipina.

Bello also directed the POEA to penalize the local company SAMA International Recruitment Agency which reportedly ignored Michelle’s complaints and her ordeal in Saudi Arabia.

In his urgent memorandum to Labor Attache Fidel Macauyag, Bello instructed the POLO in Riyadh to work with authorities there for immediate legal action there as the case is cannot be processed in the Philippines “due to lack of jurisdiction.”

“The crime happened outside of the Philippines and the principle of extraterritoriality can’t be applied to the case,” he explained.

Nevertheless, Bello vowed justice to the aggrieved OFW.

“I will do everything possible to help our OFW fight back against her tormentors,” Bello said.

He noted that he already ordered the suspension of the FDA’s accreditation with the POLO.

He also directed Macauyag to coordinate closely with Arab authorities for the filing of criminal cases and prosecution of Al Qahtani and Ahlas.

On the other hand, Bello tasked POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia to probe Ahlas over violations of POEA rules and impose penalties for the sexual abuse committed against the OFW.

The Labor chief also told Olalia to sanction the FDA and Qahtani.

Likewise, he ordered POEA to build up an administrative case against SAMA and suspend the agency to prevent further violation and exploitation of Filipino migrant workers.

Upon her arrival in the country, Michelle went to the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) where she was given legal assistance in the preparation for her sworn statement.

PAO also conducted forensic tests on the OFW which yielded results indicating sexual abuse and injuries.

PH, Saudi Arabia renew commitment to heighten partnership on labor reforms, migrant rights

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Sunday (June 20) renewed their commitment to boost cooperation for better labor reforms and migrant rights.

Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) Minister Ahmad Sulaiman Al Rajhi agreed that the two countries will work together to ensure the well-being of Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

These include the ongoing repatriation program for distressed Filipinos in relation to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as making consular services more accessible to Filipinos in Saudi Arabia.

According to the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), the Special Envoy noted that President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed Saudi Arabia’s launching of the Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), saying it is a significant step towards addressing issues with the existing sponsorship system in the Mideast country.

Borje also added that the LRI will raise the productivity and competitiveness of the labor market in Saudi Arabia.

Both parties are preparing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) based on the LRI reforms. The two officials hope to see the convening of a technical working group on the details of the MOU on labor. AAC

POEA ordered to temporarily suspend deployment of OFWs to Saudi Arabia

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has directed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to temporarily suspend the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the  Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

The department released a memorandum stating it received reports that the departing OFWs are being required by employers or foreign recruitment agencies to shoulder the cost of the health and safety protocols related to COVID-19.

OFWs are also being made to shoulder the cost of the insurance coverage premium upon their entry to KSA.

DOLE has ordered the temporarily suspension which will be effective immediately until further notice.

Meanwhile, the department will issue an official statement on the resumption of deployment to the KSA once the issue has been clarified. AAC

 

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