By Marita Moaje
MANILA – The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) on Friday announced that talks between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the long-standing issue of unpaid wages of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) retrenched in 2016 are now in its final stages.
“Thank God, we are now at the final stages of closing this most trying issue that has dragged on for years,” DMW Secretary Susan ‘Toots’ Ople said in a virtual press conference as she expressed hope that the labor concern will soon be finally resolved.
According to Ople, a list of claimants is now being asked by the KSA government, through its Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), in close coordination with the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.
She said the request was conveyed Thursday in an ad hoc group meeting explicitly created to fast-track the processing of the claims.
The ad hoc group comprised of representatives from the claims committee of the MHRSD and representatives of the Philippine Embassy and the Migrant Workers Offices of the DMW.
She added that the Saudi government has created a special committee that will look into the list and approve it.
“The ball is now in our court, and so the DMW appeals to all legitimate claimants to please get in touch with us by sending an e-mail to: email@example.com,” Ople said.
She said that the email should contain the contact details of the worker and his or her record of employment in Saudi Arabia.
To ensure fast processing, Ople said that the DMW has created a dedicated team to respond to e-mails and help workers submit clear, accurate information for easier validation.
Through a letter signed by MHRSD Minister Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi, the Saudi government formally invited the DMW Secretary to visit the Kingdom on May 24 for a bilateral meeting on labor concerns, including the workers’ unpaid claims.
Before that date, the DMW will send an advance party led by Undersecretary Bernard Olalia to discuss the contents of the joint labor agreement and mechanisms for the payment of the claims.
“We have accepted the warm invitation sent by the Saudi government through the MHRSD and look forward to a very successful and productive visit,” Ople said.
On the sidelights of the APEC Summit held in Bangkok, Thailand on November 2022, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia informed President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. that his government would provide the funds, which should have been paid for by the private Saudi Arabia employers, to enable the aggrieved OFWs to claim the back wages and other benefits due them.
With this development, Ople expressed gratitude to the Saudi government for the substantial and decisive headway in the talks between the two countries on the claims of unpaid wages and other benefits.
Around 10,000 OFWs who lost their jobs after several Arab construction companies declared bankruptcy in 2015 and 2016 will benefit from the development.
“We thank most of all Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman for his compassionate and generous leadership that affirms his sincere friendship with President Marcos Jr. and concern for the Filipino people because now, his Government is moving in a clear and decisive direction on how these long-standing claims can be finally resolved,” Ople said. (PNA)