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DOLE temporarily suspends OFW deployment to Saudi Arabia

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has temporarily suspended the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

The development was confirmed by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Bernard Olalia to GMA News Online on Friday.

In a memorandum issued on May 27, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III ordered the POEA to effect the temporary suspension of deployment of OFWs to the KSA “effective immediately and until further notice.”

“The Department received reports that departing OFWs are being required by their employers/foreign recruitment agencies to shoulder the costs of the health and safety protocol for COVID-19 and insurance coverage premium upon their entry in the Kingdom,” Bello said.

The Labor chief said the DOLE will be issuing an official statement on the resumption of deployment in the KSA after the matter has been clarified accordingly.


403 PAL passengers affected

According to flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), 403 OFWs bound for Riyadh and Dammam were not allowed to board their flights after the government ordered the deployment suspension.

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said 283 passengers of the Manila-Riyadh flight, who are all OFWs, were not able to join their flight. Meanwhile, 120 passengers of the Manila-Dammam, who are all OFWs, were also not able to join their flight.

“As a result, our flights to Riyadh and Dammam departed empty (except for three Dammam-bound non-OFW passengers),” PAL said.

Cost to OFWs

In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Bello said the government of KSA required all foreigners entering the country to undergo a 10-day quarantine.

He said that the temporary suspension of deployment to the Middle Eastern country is to ensure that OFWs will not be financially burdened by the protocol since they are being required to shoulder the cost of the entire 10-day quarantine.

“'Yung 10 days na ma-quarantine ka doon, hindi bababa ng $3,500. Saan kukuha ang OFWs ng pambayad diyan?” Bello said.

(For 10 days you’ll be quarantined, the cost will be more or less $3,500. Where will the OFWs get that money?)

Bello said that he is asking the government of KSA to mandate employers of OFWs to shoulder the cost of the 10-day quarantine.

Meanwhile, Bello told those Saudi-bound OFWs stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport due to the DOLE order that the government will provide them with accommodation.

Saudi Arabia is the top destination for Filipinos who want to work overseas, with one out of five (22.4%) OFWs worked in the country from April to September 2019, data from the Philippine Statistic Authority showed. --KBK, GMA News