Philippine Embassy 'surprised' by Saudi ban

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Sunday, July 3, 2011


THE Philippine Embassy in Riyadh hinted Sunday that it was never formally informed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) over the country's decision to stop hiring household service workers (HSWs) from the Philippines.

"Before the reported decision of the Saudi Ministry of Labor to stop issuing visas for domestic helpers from the Philippines, the Embassy proposed resuming the talks to further discuss the remaining issue of the minimum salary," said the Embassy in a statement issued Saturday night.

It said it was only able to learn of the ban, which took effect last Saturday, through the print media.

"As of July 1, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has not received any official notice on the matter from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Labor," it stressed.

Last week, reports came out quoting the Saudi government of its decision to affirm its March 12 decision to suspend the processing, verification and authentication of employment contracts of Filipino HSWs.

Reports said the decision was supposedly spurred by the steep minimum wage insisted by the Philippine government, which was a $400 a month salary for HSWs. This after several efforts by the two countries to resolve the disputed issue on the minimum salary, to which the Saudi officials believe, should be set at only $240.

And because of the suddenness of the decision of Saudi authorities, the Philippine embassy said it is now looking at meeting officials of the host country.

"The Embassy has sought a meeting with Saudi officials to confirm the parameters of this pronounced policy by the Ministry of Labor Spokesperson Mr. Hattab Al Anzi... The Philippine Embassy shall seek proper clarification on this issue from the Ministry of Labor," assured the Embassy.

Local recruitment leaders, meanwhile, questioned the alternative job sites set to be offered by the Philippine government upon the imposition of the ban on hiring Filipino domestic helpers and the "Saudization" program of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said in a statement that claims of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) and Malacanang that there are alternative countries where displaced workers from Saudi can be redeployed are "way off the beaten track."

"Malacanang and Dole should stop misleading the public about alternative job sites for displaced OFWs from Saudi Arabia... Job sites mentioned are way off the beaten track for OFWs," said Geslani.

He noted that while Canada and Australia indeed have a high demand for workers, these simply do not match with what OFWs can offer.

"Canada and Australia may need workers but these are highly-skilled personnel in the oil and gas industry, which is sorely lacking with the present manpower resources the country has failed to produce in the last decade," said Geslani.

To recall, Dole Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz had mentioned Canada and Australia as among the countries that could accommodate the OFWs that would be displaced by the program.

Tens of thousands of OFWs, mostly cleaners, guards and watchmen, construction workers, and other low-skilled types of laborers, are estimated to be affected by the Saudization program of the KSA government. The program refers to the restrictions in the hiring of migrant workers in certain companies.

On the other hand, Geslani said it will also be unfeasible to look into the Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar market to absorb the affected household service workers (HSWs) from Saudi.

"Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar have also opposed the $400 salary required by the government and have proposed a $300 minimum wage for domestic workers," noted Geslani.

The three Middle East countries are just among the alternative job sites being eyed by Dole for HSWs that would be affected by the Saudi ban.

The Saudi government, last week, also decided to ban the hiring of Filipino and Indonesian HSWs due to the former's opposition to the strict rules of HSW hiring such as the steep minimum wage of $400 per month.

Dole records show that there are some 1.2 million Filipino workers in Saudi. (AMN/Sunnex)

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