Manila, Philippines – Before his weeklong visit to the Middle East, President Rodrigo Duterte said, God willing, he would bring back home with him filipino workers who are stranded in the region.
On the dawn of Monday, April 17, Duterte returned home from his 3-nation state visit from Middle East, and the President not only brought home million dollars of investments but also 138 OFWs from Saudi Arabia.
These stranded OFWs were granted a trip home as a result of discussions and several meetings that was held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the President’s trip.
The OFWs who were sent home faced different problems in Saudi; were either undocumented workers, their passports taken away by employers or victims of illegal recruiters.
“Hindi pagbibigay ng maayos na sahod tapos 17 hours ako nagtatrabaho. Yung ano ko, overtime ko hindi po niya binayaran tapos kinakaltasan pa ako buwan buwan ng 35 riyal,” Rassel Faldas said.
Another OFW from Saudi recounted how her employers hid her passport from her.
“Passport ko po wala sa akin. Tapos, walang wala po. Lahat po kaya pinursigi na lang magtrabaho, nag-antay po ng ganitong pagkakataon po para makauwi kami ng anak ko. Kasi sobrang hirap makauwi lalo na may anak, hindi po nila ipapadala yung bata. Kaya nagtrabaho na lang po ako,” Nursiya Atan said.
There are still thousands more who want to come home to the Philippines. However, repatriation may be more difficult for those facing criminal charges.
President Duterte, in his speech upon arrival, vowed to spend government funds to ensure OFWs who want to come home are assisted.
“We have an ongoing program for the repatriation of our distressed nationals. Pinapangako ko ‘yan sa inyo. Gagawa ‘yan natin araw-araw” he said.
He gave the OFWs a total of Php10,000 in cash assistance — Php 5,000 from Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and Php 5,000 from his office. He also added that the government is more than willing to help the OFWs for them to start the next chapter of their lives and urges them to visit the Department of Trade and Industry if they want capital to start a small business.
“I am thankful that you are home safely. You can now be with your family and loved ones. We know your hard work and sacrifice,” he said.