Mitigating OFWs’ woes (2)

“In a nutshell, Saudi government agencies and provincial agents are collecting huge amounts for the deployment of each worker while the Philippine government is collecting only US$21.29.

Labor Attachè Fidel Macauyag posits that the present approach by the government vis-a-vis the problems of Overseas Filipino Workers needs augmentation. The ban and suspension of deployment to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries have been tested and found ineffective. It was, after all, more an emotional reaction and retaliation over the abuses committed against our workers and the lackadaisical attitude by the host country.

While the creation of the Department of Migration is a step in the right direction, the government should walk the extra mile. There are solutions hitherto unexplored that are sensible and practical.

The government should at least try to test its currency and effectiveness. And among the solutions is the one advanced by Labatt Macauyag, whose observation was peremptorily discussed in the last column.

Macauyag opined that “POLO’s (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) case officers and interpreters who are Filipinos are admittedly not well-versed of the local laws, regulations and prevailing practices.

Hiring Saudis or locals… is too expensive. However, the solution is actually within our reach without cost to the government. In fact, the solution will decrease immensely the government spending for our overseas operations.”

He suggested that government hires a “local service provider and use their expertise, eloquence and other advantages of local people (Saudi).” The government, through the DMW, may enter into an agreement with a credible service provider in Saudi Arabia to perform the following specific tasks: hire lawyers and paralegal staff to “handle all labor, civil, immigration and criminal cases of OFWs all over the kingdom,” reserving, however, the responsibility in the case management with the POLO; expedite the issuance of exit visas for runaway workers and those with pending cases; “upon referral by the POLO file criminal and civil suits in behalf of abused OFWs and litigate the same until its termination”; defend in court OFWs charged in court; takes charge of the provision of foods, yearly rentals of shelter houses for OFWs and provision for at least one doctor and one nurse for every PLO shelter.

The service provider is obligated likewise to render a monthly report about the status of the cases they are handling to the POLO who controls and supervises the service provider. How will this operation be funded?

He suggested shifting the burden of paying the service provider to the employers themselves by paying an additional US$100 for every recruit which is a mere crumb in the face of the huge amount they are paying for recruits. He observed that “an employer, whether for skilled or domestic helper currently pays US$6,500 as deployment cost for every worker. A big portion of this goes to the Saudi government taxes and regulatory fees (approximately 6,100 SAR or US$6,623.25 for DH and 9,000.00 SAR or US$2,394.95 for skilled workers). The rest goes to the agencies, plane tickets, agents in the province who look for applicants, and other miscellaneous expenses.”

On the other hand, only 80 SAR or US$21.29 out of the US$6,500.00 goes to the Philippine government as a verification fee for each contract, plus 100 pesos as an OEC fee required by the POEA. In a nutshell, Saudi government agencies and provincial agents are collecting huge amounts for the deployment of each worker while the Philippine government is collecting only US$21.29.” Ridiculous, one can say.

Macauyag is too sure of the validity of his idea, swearing “moral certainty that if this noble proposal is given a chance, 90 percent of the… major problems will be addressed in two (2) years. If the implementation… succeeds in KSA, the same can be adopted in other Gulf States where our OFWs encounter the same problem.” Meaning, it can have a rippling effect.

Why not give a chance to this proposal?

***

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