MANILA Philippines-Stranded Filipino migrant workers encamped beside the Philippine Consulate building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia ballooned to 3,424 as of the latest count shown in the records from the PH Consulate, according to Migrante.
“The 3,424 figure was confirmed by PH officials during a meeting held on 26th of April with the leaders of the stranded OFWs and Filipino community leaders,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante party-list Vice-chairperson, citing reports from Migrante colleagues who attended the said meeting called by the Philippine officials.
The said meeting was DFA-OUMWA undersecretary Jesus Yabes, who flew to Saudi Arabia on April 24, Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezaddin Tago, and Philippine consul general Norman Uriel Garibay and other Philippine labor and welfare officials.
“On our latest head count as of yesterday, there were already 4,397. They also have listed-up seeking to avail the PH govt. repatriation program. They come and go to the camp site as some of them are still working part-time to earn for their daily sustenance,” Monterona added.
Per Migrante monitoring, as early as September 2012 there were already 7,000 stranded OFWs who have listed up at the Philippine consulate seeking to avail repatriation but were only told that the government repatriation program is temporarily halted.
“The leaders of the stranded OFWs and the Filipino community leaders in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia welcomed the meeting as they insist for free and swift mass repatriation,” Monterona added.
The relocation of the stranded OFWs especially old and sick, women and children to a more ‘comfortable’ shelter was discussed, though Philippine officials have offered the 4th floor the Philippine consulate building and a compound owned by a Saudi national, which will accommodate around 200 people.
“The leaders of the stranded OFWs rejected the relocation as they said it is not enough and no clear blue print on their relocation and repatriation being presented by the Philippine officials,” Monterona citing reports from Mr. Elju Bulaclac, leader of the stranded OFWs in Jeddah who attended the said meeting.
On April 24, the leaders of the stranded OFWs wrote an open letter to Pres. Benigno Aquino III stating briefly the deplorable condition of the stranded Filipino workers mostly women, some of them with children -who are now on their 21 days camp out, and still counting -beside the Philippine Consulate building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“Nagsusumamo po kami at umaasa na matutulungan nyo kami sa lalong madaling panahon na makauwi ng Pilipinas at makasama ang aming mga pamilya. Maraming salamat po. (We sincerely appeal and hoping that you will help us as soon as possible to be back home in the Philippines and reunite with our families. Many thanks).”
Monterona said, “Twenty one days na naka-camped out ang mga stranded OFWs, wala pa ring napapa-uwi. Nagtataka tayo kung may ginagawa nga ba talaga ang Aquino government sa pagpapa-uwi sa kanila.”
“We have not yet heard any words of concern from Pres. Aquino who had made a tall order to all concerned Philippine government agencies to provide assistance and on-site services to OFWs especially stranded and distressed. Does he really care for our Filipino workers abroad?” Monterona asked.
Monterona urges social action groups and institutions such as migrant-serving NGOs as and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerants (ECMI) to call the Aquino government to attend on the swift and free mass repatriation of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
“The Philippine government under the Aquino administration is only reaping the gains (billion dollars of remittances) of its lucrative labor export program by peddling Filipino labors cheap. On the other hand it is neglecting its responsibility to protect deployed Filipino workers abroad, provide on-site services and programs, and secure our Filipino workers’ wellbeing,” Monterona concluded. (PR)