More OFWs from Saudi Arabia come home; grateful for gov’t care, attention

Some 141 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were among those stranded in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expressed their joy and gratitude to the Philippine Government as they arrived home last night via Saudi Arabia Airlines SV 804 flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal I.

They were met by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea with Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary Mae Fae Templa, among others.

Addressing the OFWs, Usec. Templa said that DSWD's services and programs are available and accessible to the repatriated workers.

She added, "Handa ang Departamento na tumulong sa inyo, kung ano ang mga serbisyo at programang meron ang DSWD, ang mga ito ay available para sa inyo . Ang ating mga social workers ay gagawa ng assessment (The Department is ready to help you with whatever service and program that the DSWD has. Our social workers will assess your needs)."

Usec. Templa said that the OFWs may drop by the regional offices of DSWD in their respective areas so that the social worker can immediately assess them.

Rene Rojas, 44, who hails from Cagayan de Oro City, shared that he had been with Saudi Oger as a construction worker since 2013. He has not received a single payment since January 2016.

He said, "Masaya kami at nakauwi na kami dahil para kaming mga preso doon. Nagpapasalamat kami sa gobyerno at natulungan kami (We are glad that we are now home because we were like prisoners there. We also thank the government for helping us)."

Another worker, Ariel Reyes affirmed what Rojas said and added, "Unang beses ito na ang iba't-ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno ay nagsasama para tulungan kami na nagkaroon ng labor dispute. Ginagawa lang nila kasi ang tulong na ito dati kapag may giyera (This is the first time that different agencies of government came together to help the OFWs who are caught in labor dispute. Repatriation is usually done by government only during war times)."

Asked on what assistance that he wants, he hopes that the government can help him and his fellow OFWs get their back wages and benefits.

He added that it would also help them if they would be given work more than just financial assistance.

"Mas maganda kung matulungan kaming magkatrabaho para pinaghirapan din namin ang kita. Pag financial assistance kasi madaling maubos (It would be best if government can help us find work so that we will not just depend on the assistance. Financial aid sometimes runs out fast)," Reyes said.

Likewise, Benjamin Soriano Hipolito, who hails from Sta. Maria Bulacan, worked for eight years in Saudi Oger as a fiber glass technician. He said the company owed him around 38,000 Rials and it would greatly help his family if the government can assist him in claiming his back salaries and other benefits.

He added, "Madaming utang ang pamilya ko. 'Yung iba kong anak nahinto na sa pag-aaral. Okay din sana if matulungan kami sa financial o sa paghahanap ng trabaho (My family has already incurred debts. Some of my children have stopped going to school. I hope they can help us with our financial needs or in finding a new work)."

Earlier arrivals

The latest report from the DSWD Humanitarian Mission team leader in Riyadh, Perlita V. Panganiban, Social Welfare Officer V, stated that 128 OFWs from Dammam have arrived on August 31; and 118 from Riyadh arrived on September 4.

The OFWs who arrived last night were the third batch of repatriated workers. The airfare of the 141 OFWs were taken care of by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The DSWD team led by Usec. Vilma Cabrera and Assistant Secretary Hope Hervilla, is one of the groups that went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last month as part of the inter-agency Humanitarian Mission team, in support of 'Operation Bring Them Home: Special Mission for Stranded Overseas Filipinos."

The DSWD social workers were deployed in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam/Al-Khobar to provide psychosocial interventions, such as counseling, debriefing, family reintegration, spiritual and referral for after care services to the distressed OFWs. Augmentation assistance for food, conduct of sports and recreational activities were also provided by the Department.

Usec. Templa has lauded the team's efforts and their assistance to the OFWs.

"We will do all that is necessary to help the OFWs and their families. The immediate service that we could provide is the provision of psycho-social counselling and critical incident stress debriefing," Usec. Templa said.

Source: Philippine Information Agency