Thus, said today by a migrant leader when asked about his views on the recently held dialog between the families of the stranded OFWs who have camped out in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, leaders of MIGRANTE, and top honchos of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) attended by no less than its secretary Albert del Rosario.
On April 29, the families of the stranded Filipino workers built makeshift tents in front of the main gate of the DFA setting up their own version of a camp out to press the PH govt. to attend the mass repatriation of around 4,000 plus OFWs, mostly victim of labor violations, abuses and maltreatment, who have camped out beside the PH consulate since April 8.
On the same day around 11:00 a.m., DFA secretary Del Rosario, along 2 of his officials, went down from his office and have met the families and leaders of MIGRANTE. He invited the group for a dialog the following day to discuss the repatriation of the stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
“The dialog pushed through on April 30, 11:00 a.m. After 2 hours close door meeting, we got the commitments the families and the stranded OFWs have wanted to hear from the DFA honchos,” said John Leonard Monterona, vice-chairperson of MIGRANTE party-list group.
Monterona added, “Because of the collective mass actions of the stranded Filipino workers by setting up tents beside the PH consulate building in Jeddah as a form of protest pressing the concerned PH officials to attend on their repatriation, and the solidarity camp-out by their families at DFA building main gate in Pasay, and the simultaneous protest actions in DFA and OWWA regional offices in Pampanga, Laguna, Davao, and General Santos City, the DFA secretary was forced to meet the families and leaders of MIGRANTE on April 30.”
“What if the stranded Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia did not staged a camp out? What if their families did not held a solidarity camp out and protest actions?” Monterona asked.
Monterona noted that as early as September 2012, there were already 7,000 stranded and distressed Filipino workers who have sought PH govt. assistance for repatriation. After listing up their names and giving pertinent information, they were told to come back for update but were only told that there is no mass repatriation yet and still waiting the granting of amnesty by the host government.
Because of the collective mass actions by the stranded Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia and their families in the Philippines, Monterona said, the Aquino administration thru the DFA has committed the following:
– Relocation of the stranded OFWs. The DFA committed to find shelter facilities with continuous supply of food, water, and with proper sanitation, medicines for sick and old Filipino workers. The 4th floor of the PH consulate, a compound that will accommodate around 200, and the PH Intl. School gymnasium which will accommodate 300.
“The children and mothers, old and sick OFWs will be the priority for relocation. We have advised the leaders of the stranded to conduct a joint ocular inspection of the shelter facilities with PH consulate officials. Then a report will be made along the list of the children, their parents, and the old and sick. After which they will start the relocation,”Monterona clarified.
In regards to the P15-M unpaid lease rental of the Al Mina haj terminal, which was used as temporary shelter of the stranded OFWs from 2009 to 2011, ‘the DFA informed us that this will be attended later, not a priority at this time as the Al Mina Haj terminal is due for demolition and improvement,’ Monterona noted.
– The DFA committed to augment its staff by hiring ‘negotiators’ as many as possible. They will be at the forefront in negotiation with the sponsors.
“This is as per the so called ‘legal process’ and if there is no amnesty that will be granted,” Monterona added.
– The good DFA secretary committed to go to Saudi Arabia, soonest, to meet his counterpart Saudi foreign minister to explore the possibility of the granting of general amnesty, if not, to fast track the issuance of waiver or ‘No objection Certificates’ by the sponsors.
– He also committed to open up the possibility of granting an extension to the 90-day grace period in fixing the documents of the stranded Filipino workers.
– Sec. Del Rosario also hinted that he will visit the stranded Filipinos in Jeddah if his schedules will permit to personally see their situation and to extend his solidarity with the latter.
“We really appreciate Sec. Del Rosario’s open-mindedness to our suggestions as we explained to him the need to ask for general amnesty citing humanitarian considerations,” Monterona added.
– DFA sec. Del Rosario also committed to promptly attend the repatriation of the remains of the two stranded OFWs namely Eliseo Araneta from Calamba, Laguna, and Danilo Grefadilyo, from Sorsogon, after their respective kin have informed the good secretary that both have sought PH consulate assistance since last year.
“The good secretary assured us that his department is doing ‘maximum efforts’ to solve this crisis (referring to the ballooning number of stranded OFWs seeking repatriation). He added that his department has enough funds to shoulder the repatriation cost and airfares of the stranded OFWs,” Monterona citing his notes during the April 30 dialog with DFA officials and kin of stranded OFWs.
“All those who wanted to be home will be repatriated -this is the assurance given to us by Sec. Del Rosario. We expect that these assurances will be realized soonest. Crucial to its realization is the vigilance and collective mass actions of the stranded Filipino workers and their families in the Philippines. We will continue to be so,” Monterona concluded. # # #
John Leonard Monterona
Vice chairperson, MIGRANTE party-list group
Mobile No. +63 923 420 0112