Foreign Affairs asked to negotiate 'Saudization' implementation-A A +A
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
SENATE Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano has called on the Foreign Affairs department to plead with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a gradual implementation of an employment policy that will limit the number of foreign workers there.
In a press statement Tuesday, Cayetano said the government should "exert all diplomatic means" to ask Saudi Arabia to give Filipino migrant workers time to adjust to its recently announced Nitaqat system.
The new policy will categorize Saudi companies according to how many Saudis they employ. The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Labor has reportedly set a quota of 19-percent Saudi employment in each firm.
An Arab News report quoting the ministry said firms that meet the quota will be classified "green" and will get their foreign workers' visas processed faster.
"Yellow" companies will be given nine months to hire more Saudis and will not be allowed to extend work visas for migrant workers more than six years.
"Red" companies will have six months to reach the quota. They will not be allowed to renew foreign workers' visas. The classification is expected to finish by August.
"If we can send high level emissaries to other countries, like we did in China, then we should also initiate high-level talks between our government and Saudi Arabia to lobby for our 1.2 million workers there," Cayetano said.
Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, also called on the DFA to push for a fourth Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) with Saudi Arabia.
"Our government should build on the results of the last JCM (in 2008) and, while addressing the concerns of overseas Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, ensure that our OFWs continue to work only in countries where their rights are protected," she said.
He added the government must put programs in place to anticipate the return of Overseas Filipino Workers who will be sent home.
Cayetano said past administrations have failed to train OFWs in running their own small and medium-scale businesses. He said OFWs who come home usually put their money in "common options" like putting up a sari-sari store or investing in a jeepney or tricycle.
"When these go bust, they end up going abroad again. It's a vicious cycle," he said.
The senator said the DFA should be given more money to assist OFWs, noting cuts in the DFA's budget for them.
"There are some countries, including Saudi Arabia, where OFWs face criminal allegations and the budget for legal assistance allotted to them is insufficient," he said. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)