John Leonard Monterona,  KGS-Migrante Middle East coordinator
John Leonard Monterona, KGS-Migrante Middle East coordinator

SAUDI ARABIA-The Middle east-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) rights group Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS)-Migrante today assailed the Aquino government on pursuing a new recruitment scheme of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia through the institutionalization of Saudi-based Mega recruitment firms into its existing bilateral labor agreement.

“The institutionalization of Mega recruitment firms that is primarily being pushed by Aquino’s labor honchos headed by Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) secretary Rosalinda Baldoz with its counterpart in Saudi Arabia and some big time recruitment agents is designed to farther intensify the recruitment and deployment of OFWs and aspiring job seekers who are part of the millions of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos,” said John Leonard Monterona, KGS-Migrante Middle East coordinator.

“And that’s primarily the real intent of the new recruitment scheme as we found that OFW rights protection mechanisms are undercut in the absence of specific social legislations taken by the host government to guarantee that migrant workers’ rights is recognized, respected, and honored,” Monterona referring to the PHL-KSA Mega firms recruitment scheme.

Monterona recalled that the decision by the host government to stop issuing work visas to Philippine-hired household service workers (HSWs) in 2011 created a row between the PHL and host government when the PHL labor department imposed several requirements such as sketch of the house of the employer in Saudi Arabia, a minimum wage of US$400, a provision of providing ATM cards to hired domestic workers, among others, in response to the heightened clamor to provide concrete protections to OFWs especially domestic workers by various OFWs groups spearheaded by KGS-Migrante Middle East.

In response, the Saudi labor ministry temporarily stopped issuing work visas that last for about a year after it received strong reservations from Saudi employers on the requirements imposed by the PH govt. Rounds of negotiations took placed between the two labor departments and it was on mid-2012 that the Mega recruitment firm scheme was conceived.

“Early this year, both parties signed the Mega recruitment firm scheme after DoLE sec. Baldoz went to Riyadh, Saudi’s capital, sometime on February,” Monterona added.

Monterona claimed that it was no less than the chief of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Hans Cacdac confirmed that the Mega Recruitment companies are highly capitalized recruitment ventures and apparently will ‘ensure that recruiters in the Kingdom has the right resources to provide accommodation, protection, repatriation.’

‘Clearly, the Aquino govt. through the DoLE-POEA tandem is focused on intensifying the exportation of Filipino labor amidst the worsening unemployment woes in the country. Sad to say, it is at the expense of OFWs well being, rights and welfare,” Monterona claimed.

Monterona raised serious doubt on some of the provisions of the PHL-KSA Mega Recruitment scheme such as the granting of ‘End of Service’ benefits or gratuity to domestic workers, the latter not even recognized in Saudi labor law; the deployment of hired OFWs even without clear job upon arrival in Saudi Arabia; the intervention of Philippine labor officials on labor cases will be obscured as the Mega recruitment firms will now be solely responsible to deployed OFWs.

Monterona also claimed that the Mega recruitment scheme initiated by Aquino’s labor honchos with its counterpart is designed to enhance the co-modification of OFWs treated as mere product for export.

“The bankrupt BS Aquino regime, as it failed to generate local jobs with decent wages and benefits to Filipino workers, is desperate in pushing the implementation of the Mega recruitment firms scheme in which the Shoura Council, Saudi council of Ministers, had recently rejected.

“Like previous administration, instead of developing the local economy by implementing genuine agrarian program and national industrializations the Aquino’s govt. relies heavily on OFWs billions of remittances that helps pump priming the local economy through vibrant consumptions by the millions of OFWs families, this is on top of the millions of govt. fees and exactions imposed to OFWs,” Monterona said.