THE Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) thanked on Wednesday King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for providing welfare assistance to the stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in his country.

In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the directive by the Saudi monarch is a piece of good news amid the ongoing repatriation assistance to OFWs provided by the Philippine government.

"We immensely express our gratitude to King Salman for his concern to our OFWs," Bello said.

"This is a welcome development and, indeed, a big help in our ongoing efforts to secure the welfare of our OFWs," he added.

Forming the assistance are the waiving of immigration penalties due to expired working visa, plane fare to OFWs returning to the country, food aid, re-employment assistance to those who wish to work in other companies, and legal assistance to money claims.

Earlier, the Dole has identified 11,000 OFWs stranded in Saudi Arabia due to the financial crisis that hit their employers, totalling about nine companies.

Bello is set to return to Saudi Arabia next week, together with Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III, and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, to oversee the assistance mission operation.

Meanwhile, the Migrante International is asking Dole to include in the mission the identification of another 9,000 stranded OFWs.

"There are still many others left stranded. We estimate that about 20,000 OFWs are stranded. But by the Dole's count, it is only 11,000," said Migrante chairman Garry Martinez in an interview.

He said this is because the nine companies visited by the government is short of the total of 15 firms that have been hit by the oil price crisis in the Middle East state.

Aside from asking Dole to find the other stranded OFWs, Migrante also asked the government to increase their financial assistance.

“The financial assistance totalling P26,000, we said it was too insufficient,” said Martinez.

Under the Relief Assistance Program (RAP), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is providing a one-time financial grant to OFWs, whether still in Saudi or already repatriated, amounting to P20,000; while each family of affected OFW, who is still at jobsite, shall get P6,000. (HDT/Sunnex)