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P3-B DEBT TO OFWS

Pampanga workers ask gov’t help in getting pay from Saudi firm

05:16 AM August 19, 2019

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines — At least 9,555 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated by the national government in 2016 are waiting to get P3 billion in salaries and benefits from a construction company in Saudi Arabia.

Last week, representatives of the workers asked Pampanga provincial officials to help them fast-track the payments that were approved by a Saudi Arabian court last month.

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Court order

“We were informed by our lawyers in Jeddah on July 30 that the court had ordered Saudi Oger [Ltd.] to pay up SAR (Saudi Riyal) 283 million to more than 45,000 employees of different nationalities,” said Alex Ordoñez, a leader of the workers from Pampanga.

The construction company has not filed for bankruptcy, but Ordoñez said it only has SAR 83 million in sequestered assets.

Assistance

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III is traveling to Saudi Arabia on Aug. 22 to discuss with his counterpart how to implement the court’s order on the compensation to Filipino workers, according to Esperanza Cobarrubias, director of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) in Central Luzon.

The labor department gave the workers P50,000 each in 2016 as “cash advance” for their claims, Ordoñez said, adding that some claimants received P20,00 from Owwa for livelihood projects.

Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda said the provincial government would pay for the travel and billeting expenses of two OFW representatives who would follow up their cases in Saudi Arabia.

Waiting

Antonio Mallari, one of the OFWs, said many of them had stayed in Saudi Arabia for a year waiting for payments.

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“While we waited for payments, many of us got separated from our families, our children stopped schooling and we got sick in the process,” Mallari told Pineda. —Tonette Orejas

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TAGS: DOLE, Saudi Oger Ltd., Silvestre Bello III, uncompensated OFWs
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