Hundreds of OFWs barred from flying to Saudi Arabia amid confusion of govt deployment ban
MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) bound for Saudi Arabia were stranded and prevented from flying out of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) on Friday amid confusion over the government’s deployment ban.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) said over 400 OFWs booked in two separate flights to Riyadh and Dammam were not allowed to board the aircraft.
Both planes continued the flights nearly empty at their designated departure times to carry passengers on the return leg to Manila.
PAL said the reason for the confusion was the government’s directive to temporarily suspend the deployment of OFWs to Saudi Arabia the previous day without informing the airline.
“We had not received any official government order directing airlines not to accept OFWs bound for Saudi Arabia, but we complied with verbal instructions from the immigration authorities who are no longer accepting OFWs for travel,” PAL said in its advisory, adding it “regrets” the incident.
The deployment ban was ordered by the Department of Labor and Employment on May 27 this year.
This came after the department received reports that departing OFWs were required by employers and recruitment agencies to pay for the cost of COVID-19 safety requirements and insurance coverage upon their entry in Saudi Arabia.
Because the airline was not informed of the deployment ban, PAL said the OFWs managed to complete the check-in procedures at Naia.
“However, the Bureau of Immigration’s non-acceptance of our OFW passengers led to their exclusion from the flight,” PAL explained.
PAL said the affected flights were PR5654, which had 282 OFW passengers, and PR5682, which had 120 OFW passengers.
The flag carrier mounts weekly flights to Riyadh and Damman, mainly serving the OFW market.
“We have appealed with the government on behalf of our OFW passengers and hope for a positive resolution,” PAL said.
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