MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 2, 2011) - Manila said it has contingency measures after Saudi Arabia imposed its new policy halting the grant of working permits to domestic helpers from the Philippines.
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is confident that there are alternative destinations that can absorb overseas Filipino workers (OFW) wanting to go to Saudi Arabia but are affected by the ban.
“Kung sakaling hindi magkaayos, we have alternative markets at confident tayo na ma-aabsorb yung mga gustong pumunta ng Saudi,” Valte said.
“At iyung iba naman, meron pong programa ang Department of Labor and Employment na tinatawag nilang ‘Balik-Pinay! Balik-Hanapbuhay! Project’ na livelihood training and assistance program para sa mga maaapektuhan ng polisiyang ito kung sakaling matuloy talaga,” she added.
These livelihood packages for returning OFWs include training and assistance for food processing, garments, beauty shops or computer shops.
Saudi authorities announced the new policy, which is also called “Saudization” that prioritizes hiring of local workers instead of foreign laborers. Aside from the Philippines, Indonesia, which also sends domestic workers to Saudi Arabia, is also affected by the policy.
Valte said that the Philippine labor department wanted to clarify whether the policy only affects new applicants and not those who are rehires and those who are already working in that country.
Just recently, the government said the Philippines will seek clarification from Saudi Arabia about the new policy.
Some 1.3 million Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia, a major market for the nine million-strong overseas-based Filipino workforce. According to a Filipino workers organization based in Saudi Arabia, as many as 150,000 OFWs are employed as domestic workers there.