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Unpaid wages of OFWs on Duterte agenda

01:05 AM April 12, 2017
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte engages in a conversation with Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Al Saud, Governor of Riyadh upon his arrival at the Royal Terminal of the King Khalid International Airport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on April 10, 2017. SIMEON CELI JR./Presidential Photo

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte engages in a conversation with Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Al Saud, Governor of Riyadh upon his arrival at the Royal Terminal of the King Khalid International Airport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on April 10, 2017. SIMEON CELI JR./Presidential Photo

RIYADH—Unpaid wages will be on the agenda when overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) meet President Duterte during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where economic troubles have forced the repatriation of thousands of workers from the Philippines still waiting for their salaries.

The issue is included in a petition that Saudi-based OFWs plan to present to Mr. Duterte on Wednesday, said Florante Catanus, vice president of the All-Filipino Community and Sports Commission, an umbrella group.

A drop in global oil prices by about half since 2014 created a Saudi budget deficit of $79 billion last year, with billions owed by the government to private firms it had contracted, chiefly in the construction sector.

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“So many Filipinos were laid off. So they were sent home and they were not able to get money” the companies owed them, said Catanus, whose group is based in Eastern Province in the Gulf kingdom.

He said more than 5,000 workers were repatriated and were still owed back wages.

Saudi officials have taken legal action on behalf of the unpaid employees from the Philippines and other Asian countries in an effort to recover their wages, even if the workers have returned to their homelands.

“They’re still waiting for their money,” said Resty Sibug, commander of the Riyadh chapter of the Knights of Rizal.

Some of those repatriated have demonstrated in the Philippines to push their case, which is expected to come up when his and other community groups meet Mr. Duterte on Tuesday.

The President’s Gulf tour will also take him to Bahrain and Qatar.

Assistant Foreign Secretary Hjayceelyn Quintana told reporters that workers’ welfare would be a focus of the President’s talks with Saudi King Salman, King Hamad of Bahrain and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar. —AFP

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TAGS: Duterte Middle East visit, ofws, Philippine news updates, Saudi Arabia
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