MANILA, Philippines-Sectoral partylist group Migrante on Sunday urged Pres. Benigno Aquino III to order the payment of the alleged unpaid lease on Saudi terminal that was previously used as temporary shelter in 2009 to 2011 so the new batch of stranded overseas Filipino workers can occupy it.
Saudi’s recent labor policy on migrant workers forced OFWs particularly the undocumented to seek government help for repatriation.
“We are reiterating our call to the government on the unpaid lease rental on the Al Mina Hajj terminal believed to have reached 1.4-M Saudi rials or roughly equivalent to P15 million amid the surging numbers of stranded OFWs now camping out beside the Philippine consulate building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” Migrante vice-chairperson John Leonard Monterona said.
“Three days after about 80 stranded OFWs built makeshift tents beside the consulate building on April 10 , their number surges to 675,” added Monterona in a statement to Manila Channel.
“We are worried to their condition especially the health of 50 children and women stranded OFWs considering the high temperature being summertime, and of course also their daily sustenance,” also said Jeddah Filipino Society spokesman Bobby Fajarito, whose group has been monitoring and assisting the trapped workers.
Monterona challenged Pres. Aquino on his promise that he will attend to the situation.
“First thing the government could do is to release the payment of the unpaid lease rental on the temporary shelter so that the stranded will be transferred there soonest,” Monterona said.
“Allowing the stranded to stay under the heat of the sun and doing nothing to relocate them to a safer and comfortable shelter is tantamount to criminal neglect by the government to its own people who have been hailed as its modern heroes.”
Monterona claimed they have not yet received any “favorable reply” from Department of Foreign Affairs, Overseas Welfare Workers Association and even from the office of the presidential adviser on OFWs concern Vice-president Jejomar Binay on the issues of unpaid rental since August last year.
According to Monterona, the renting of the shelter inside the Al-Mina Haj seaport terminal started on mid-2009 when about 200 undocumented OFWs camped out under the Khandera Bridge in Jeddah to seek for repatriation.
The event forced then Arroyo administration through former Labor and Employment secretary Marianito Roque in coordination with the Philippine consul general in Jeddah to rent a shelter, he said.
“On September 2009, the consulate obtained permission from the Makkah Governorate and entered into a lease contract with the King Abdulaziz Endownment for Al-Ain-Aziziah, a Saudi-run agency managing the Al Mina Hajj seaport terminal.”