Entrepreneurship eyed to counter workers ban in Saudi-A A +A
By Jill Beltran
Saturday, July 2, 2011
MANILA -- The government plans to strengthen the program that provides business opportunities for overseas workers following Saudi Arabia's order to freeze the hiring of Filipino house helpers in the oil-rich Arab state.
Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) Chief Carmelita Dimzon revealed this in separate interviews on Friday.
Both agencies and their respective heads are planning to intensify the "Balik-Pinay! Balik Hanapbuhay! Project," a move that they hope will encourage many household workers to become entrepreneurs instead.
Baldoz said the program may be expanded to be able to accommodate those affected by the job freeze order of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) government.
The ban in the hiring of Filipino household workers called Nitagat in Saudi Arabia takes effect today, July 2. Aside from Philippines, Indonesian workers are also affected by the ban.
Under the new policy, the Saudi government will prioritize employment of its nationals over foreign workers in Saudi-owned firms.
For her part, Secretary Dimzon said the Owwa is looking into shifting to action at the home front, "where they can now be their own bosses instead of continuously being employees and HSWs."
The program will provide displaced workers with a ready-to-go roll-out self-employment package of services, consisting of short-gestation training, start-up kits, business counseling, and technical and marketing assistance services for various businesses.
Among the businesses promoted by the two agencies include health and wellness businesses (reflexology, massage, home spa, cosmetology and production of bath soap, scented oils, herbal medicine, skin/health care products); house repairs (plumbing, welding, electrical servicing, appliance repair); food processing (native snack preparation and other food and beverage preparation); personal accessories repairs and maintenance (cellular phone and bag repairs); and handicraft (souvenir items, fashion jewelry, native slippers, bags and accessories production).
Each prospective entrepreneur could also avail of a P10,000 livelihood package from the National Reintegration Program for OFWs.
Some 1.2 million Filipinos are employed in Saudi, with an estimated 180,000 employed as domestic workers.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte assured on Friday that the Dole is continuously working with its counterparts in Saudi Arabia to clarify the reported ban on Filipino household workers.
"We have been constantly working with counterparts of Secretary Baldoz with the KSA officials and we are trying to find a viable solution to the problem," Valte said.
She said there were informal discussions and Dole officials are waiting for the official notice from the Saudi Arabia of the policy to be implemented.
The Palace official noted that the Philippine labor department wanted to clarify whether the new policy will be intended only for new applicants.
She also said Baldoz is now encouraging affected overseas Filipino workers to avail of the government's alternative livelihood packages back home.
She said the Aquino administration has already released some P27 million for the Filipino domestic helpers.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Labor department will be sending a labor attaché to Saudi Arabia to verify the labor ban.
Malacañang is concerned that the ban could possibly affect the Philippine economy, since Saudi Arabia is one of the top destinations of overseas Filipino workers and the biggest source of dollar remittances outside the United States.
As of 2009, Saudi Arabia contributed 52 percent to the Middle East deployment and nearly 30 percent to worldwide deployment of Filipino workers, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. (AMN/Sunnex)