13 DECEMBER 2016-- Gabriela Women’s Party, together with Migrante International and migrant workers from Saudi Arabia, today filed a resolution at the House of Representatives seeking an inquiry into the efforts of the Philippine Government, in particular the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment to address the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) affected by the crisis in Saudi Arabia.
“President Duterte has already acknowledged the crisis in the Middle East and its impact on our OFWs. In fact, different government agencies have already conducted missions and formed response teams to provide assistance to OFWs in distress in Saudi Arabia. These efforts, however, were not enough. Thousands of OFWs remain stranded in shelters all over Saudi Arabia, suffering from inhumane conditions, and needing repatriation, humanitarian, and legal assistance,” Rep. Emmi A. De Jesus said.
“House Resolution No. 625 thus aims to assess the efforts of the Philippine Government to address this problem and to come up with new and improved measures to immediately and properly assist all OFWs in distress in Saudi Arabia,” she added.
Saudi Arabia remains the top destination of OFWs and second only to the United States as the country’s main source of remittances. In 2015, one in every four or 24.7 percent of all OFWs was deployed here, according to Philippine Statistics Authority data. Saudi Arabia, however, has been experiencing economic difficulties in recent years due to the continuing decline in oil prices in the international market and the unstable peace situation in the Middle East, resulting in the cancellation or postponement of government-initiated and -funded projects and the massive lay offs of foreign migrant workers, including OFWs.
Migrante International estimated that by March 2016, around 50,000 OFWs have been laid off. Many of them have not received their salaries and benefits until present.
“Tens of thousands more OFWs are in danger of losing their jobs or having their salaries cut as the crisis in Saudi Arabia continues to worsen and spread to the rest of the Middle East. Women migrant workers, in particular, are now becoming more vulnerable as the crisis is expected to affect the health and service sectors, the sectors wherein most women OFWs are employed,” Rep. Arlene Brosas said.
Women migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries are vulnerable to abuses and exploitation. The Gabriela Partylist representatives warned that women OFWs may suffer the same fate as Irma Jotojot who died in a hospital after allegedly being raped and physically abused only this August, of Lorna Macatol who was put inside a spinning washing machine, and Neda Felisilda who was repeatedly poisoned, as well as dozens of other women OFWs who experienced physical and emotional violence from their employers.
“Considering how much the Philippines has been relying on remittances to keep its economy afloat for years now, the Philippine Government owes it to our OFWs to do its very best to promote and protect their human rights and welfare,” said Rep. De Jesus.
The Gabriela Partylist representatives also challenged the Duterte administration to scrap the government’s Labor Export Policy and instead create local jobs through agrarian reform and national industrialization. #