PHL ready to repatriate Filipinos in Saudi Arabia following oil sites attack

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2019   •   437

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is ready to repatriate thousands of Filipinos from Saudi Arabia who were affected by the attacks on oil sites last weekend, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Tuesday.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said this is if the condition in the world’s top oil-exporting country worsens in the coming days.

Bello added that as of now, they are still monitoring developments and assessing the possible implications of the attacks on the safety and security of Filipino workers in the area.

There are about 50,000 Filipino workers in areas affected by the blasts but Bello assured no Filipino was injured in the attacks.

“So far, no reports of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) injured or negatively affected by the attack and no work disruption was reported. Our Philippine Overseas Labor Offices in Al Khobar, Riyadh, and Dammam are also on top of the situation to check on the conditions of our OFWs,” he said in a statement.

On the early hours of Saturday (Sept. 14), a series of major drone attacks were launched on Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil processing facility.

The attacks on the processor and a major oil field sparked a huge fire, according to the kingdom’s interior ministry.

Houthi Rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack.

DOLE said they are closely coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs on the possible evacuation of Filipinos from the blast sites.

“We are coordinating with the DFA on the development of the situation for constant assessment. But we are ready for any eventual repatriation to ensure the safety and security of OFWs, or help them secure employment in the other areas,” Bello said.

Saudi Arabia is among the top destination countries for OFWs composing 24.3 percent of the total 2.3 million OFWs across the globe, based on the 2018 Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

DOLE denounces ABS-CBN’s claim of compliance with labor practices

Marje Pelayo   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday (July 1) denounced the claims made by lawyers and officials of ABS-CBN Corporation that it found the network compliant with labor laws and standards.

In a statement, the labor department said it “denounces attempts by lawyers and officials of ABS-CBN to misrepresent its position to deceive members of the House of Representatives in its bid to gain congressional approval for a new franchise.”

Additionally, DOLE denied ABS-CBN’s claim that the department approves of the firm’s seasonal work status for its program employees.

DOLE said its inspectors found violations of labor practices on the part of ABS-CBN but added that “the company took steps to correct those infractions.”

“It is therefore patently misleading to attribute to us the claim that ABS-CBN is a compliant company,” the agency said adding that there are actually 67 pending cases against ABS-CBN in the National Labor Relation Commission (NLRC) and in various courts.

“We also warn the broadcast firm’s counsels against wrongfully presenting policy issuances of the department to the advantage of their client,” DOLE said.

“The cited rule governing the employee-employer relationship in the broadcast industry 40 years ago, which is not aligned with the provisions of the Labor Code, does not anymore apply to date,” it added.

The labor department said it will not let the matter pass.

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Bello says no to use of OFW funds to aid displaced migrant workers

Robie de Guzman   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has rejected calls to use the trust fund being managed by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide for the emergency needs of Filipino migrant workers displaced by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“They are sending us more than $30 billion a year. Nakakatulong sa ekonomiya natin. Kaya naman, for once, pay back naman tayo. ‘Wag nating galawin yung pera nila,” Bello said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The OWWA earlier asked for a P5 billion supplemental budget from Congress to prolong its fund’s sustainability as it warned of a “largely looming” bankruptcy should it continue to spend for the food, accommodation, and transportation of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) beyond 2021.

At a Senate hearing last week, OWWA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said the agency’s P18.79-billion fund is expected to be reduced to P10 billion by the end of this year, and plunge below P1 billion by the end of 2021 should OFWs continue to be displaced and repatriated.

Cacdac said OWWA has so far spent more than P800 million for the repatriation, accommodation and cash assistance for returning OFWs.

Bello said OWWA funds should be spent more on its members’ needs, such as for livelihood or their children’s education.

“Dapat gobyerno ang magbigay ng pera para matiyak natin na lahat ng kailangan ng ating mga OFW ay matugunan natin… Bakit naman, for the first time na hihingi naman sila ng tulong, nangangailangan sila ng tulong, bakit naman kailangan nating galawin yung pondo nila?… ‘Wag natin gamitin ang pera na ‘yan sa panahong ito,” the labor chief said.

“Government has to take extra steps in order to assure additional budget to help our OFWs,” he added.

“Huwag nating hayaan na maramdaman ng OFW na tinitipid sila sa kabila ng napakalaki nilang naitulong sa ekonomiya natin in the good and in the best of times,” he further stated.

Bello said around 63,000 Filipino workers have already been brought home while about 90,000 others remain stranded in other countries and are awaiting repatriation.

DOLE hopes to repatriate OFWs’ remains from Saudi Arabia before July 4

Robie de Guzman   •   June 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has expressed hope to fly home the bodies of 301 deceased overseas Filipino workers before the July 4 deadline set by the Saudi government.

“We were given a deadline of July 4, so we hope to bring them back before that deadline,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday.

DOLE earlier reported that preparations are underway to bring home the remains of Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia, including the 152 who succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The remains of deceased OFWs will be brought home via two chartered flights from Riyadh and Jeddah.

DOLE said the Department of Health (DOH) is expected to issue this week the protocols in handling, reception and domestic transport of the remains.

Upon arrival in the country, Bello said the remains of those who died from coronavirus disease will be brought directly to the crematoriums identified by their respective families or local government units.

While those who died of natural causes will be allowed to be fetched by their respective families.

Meanwhile, Bello assured the government is ready to receive and assist more returning Filipino workers who were displaced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor chief made the assurance as he welcomed the statement of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to allow more airlines to operate for OFW repatriation.

CAAP has been strictly regulating flights in the country to help curb the spread of the viral respiratory disease.

However, the restriction has prevented government from maximizing its initiatives to repatriate migrant workers whose jobs took a hit amid the global health crisis.

“With CAAP’s permission, we can now bring home more OFWs so they can find refuge in their own country and be reunited with their families,” Bello said.

“We now have systems to locate and track OFWs so that while they signify their intention of flying home, preparations for them are already being made such as testing, hotel accommodation, and transport service to their places of origin,” he added, referring to the OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS) of DOLE developed to locate migrant workers and help government prepare the needs of returning OFWs.

“What’s important is the readiness of the government to provide prompt and appropriate service for our OFWs,” Bello said.

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