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Philippines resumes deployment of workers to Saudi Arabia

Job seekers fill in their forms at a job fair for call centre agents during the International Contact Center Conference and Expo at the SMX Covention Center in Manila, Philippines. (AFP Photo). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, May 29, 2021, PhilStar. The Philippines is resuming sending workers to Saudi Arabia after it assured Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III that foreign employers will shoulder the costs of COVID-19 protocols, including the testing and quarantine of Filipino workers, The Philippine Star reported.

“The temporary suspension of deployment to the Kingdom is hereby lifted,” Bello said Saturday in a statement.

Overseas Employment Administration to immediately implement his directive and to provide the needed clearance for Filipino workers heading to Saudi Arabia.

He also apologized for the “inconvenience and momentary anguish” that the suspension caused Filipino workers en route to Saudi Arabia, saying that he understands that it caused “confusion and irritation,” but stood by his decision to abruptly suspend the deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf state that left some 500 workers stranded Friday.

“It was to the best interest of our OFWs that such decision had to be made,” Bello said.

The Labor chief paused sending workers to Saudi Arabia Friday after receiving reports that OFWs were being made to shoulder the cost of quarantine and other health protocols upon arrival in the country.

Earlier Saturday, POEA Administrator Bernanrd Olalia told state-run People’s Television that the move was designed to “pressure” the Saudi government to clarify its policies for Filipino workers.

“Ang atin pong mahal na secretary ay nag-issue kaagad ng direktiba ng immediate temporary suspension of deployment para po magkaroon ng pressure na maglabas na ng official declaration,” Olalia said.

(Our beloved secretary immediately issued a directive for the immediate temporary suspension of deployment so they would be pressured to issue an official declaration.)

Under POEA Memorandum Circular 1-2021, the licensed Philippine recruitment agencies and/or principals/employers of the OFWs should be responsible for the cost of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

It also states that they should be the one to provide the appropriate free COVID-19 testing to the OFWs, as required by the employer and the country of destination.

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