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Mabait na, galante pa! Saudi king foots bill for undocumented OFWs’ trip home

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King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not only grant pardon to 400 Filipinos working illegally in the country, but he also sent a plane for their repatriation.

In a press briefing at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manama, Bahrain, Sec. Silvestre Bello III revealed the king will shoulder the expenses of about 200 returning OFWs via Saudia Airlines.

They are part of the 400 Pinoys who are expected to return home on Monday (April 17,) when President Duterte comes back home from his Middle East trip.

“Opo, kasama na po sila. By the way, ‘yung isang plane is at the expense of OWWA but there is ano — I got a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the King of Saudi Arabia offered a plane, a Saudia plane, to carry about 200 of our overseas workers,” Bello said.

The affected OFWs came from Riyadh alone. The latest development came on the heels of President Duterte;s visit in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.

“I was referring to our OFWs in Riyadh who are the availees of the amnesty program, 250 are going there. And then may ipinakiusap kasi ako sa Minister of Labor ng Saudi na meron tayong mga runaways and they are now housed in a shelter called Bahay Kalinga for women and…for men,” Bello said.

About 160 ‘runaways’ are expected to joint Duterte when he returns home, the Labor secretary added.

Bello remains optimistic that more distressed OFWs will be able to avail for the amnesty program.

“Hopefully, because right now if you recall there is, there was an amnesty program declared by the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will result in the repatriation of not less 8,000 to 9,000 overseas workers,” Bello said.

“In fact, we already have our OFWs going home and when the President goes home on Monday, he will be bringing with him not less than 400 overseas workers,” he said.

Bello noted the huge number of OFWs who need help, reaching as much as 9,000.

“So unti-unti natin sila binabawi pero alam ninyo, ‘yung pagbawi natin sa kanila this involves about 9,000 overseas workers,” Bello said.

” The reason why nade-delay ‘yung pagbalik nila because merong — marami sa kanila ang may unpaid wages pay including ‘yung claim nila for end of services which in our legal term in the Philippines is separation pay. Eh alam mo iyan it involves millions,” he explained.

Bello pointed out that the OFWs’ needed to get their claims, which they can use to start a new life back in the Philippines.

“Kaya iyon ang ano hinihintay natin ang mga unpaid claims. In fact, I send in, after that amnesty program was declared by the Crown Prince of Saudi, I send an augmentation team to help our overseas workers follow up their claims,” he said.

“And if after investigation, analysis, our people can establish the validity and masisiguro natin na makolekta nila OWWA is prepared to advance the amount to our overseas contract workers para pwede na silang mag-negosyo,” Bello added.