By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The head of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) said Monday, June 22, that they are now looking into the situation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia that led them to scouring trash for food.
OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said in a radio interview that they are verifying the reports that OFWs in Riyadh ended up scavenging for food from garbage bins after being displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the OWWA chief, they learned that some of the OFWs seen in the video were receiving “adequate” income and benefits in the Saudi capital.
“Mayroong ganyang klase ng report, kasi may video naman na ipinakikita. Pero unang-una, hindi naman ito karamihan ‘yong nasa video, at pangalawa parang sa panayam ng POLO (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) ay mayroon namang mga sapat na benepisyo at income itong mga nasama doon sa viral video, kaya’t inaalam pa bakit ganoon ang hinantungan ng kanilang sitwasyon,” Cacdac told DWIZ when asked to confirm the media reports on plight of the OFWs.
(There were reports, since a video showed the OFWs were scavenging for food. But first of all, most of these people were not those in the video, and second, I think, in their interview by the POLO, these OFWs seen in the viral video had adequate benefits and income, that’s why we are finding out why they ended up in that situation.)
Cacdac said the government, nevertheless, has already been assisting the displaced OFWs.
Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto earlier dismissed as a mere “threatrics” the video footage showing some Filipino migrant workers searching for food in Riyadh’s trash bins.
“If reports reaching me are true, I’m disappointed with some of our people who have resorted to theatrics to catch attention. Fact is food assistance was given. Mamulot ng basura (Picking up garbage)? C’mon!” Alonto tweeted last Friday, June 19.
“The fact is food assistance was given. [Repatriation] is the goal. Well, exit visas need to be granted and more flights needed. That’s the truth. We are on it. Sana walang drama (Spare us the drama),” he added.
Cacdac said the OWWA has been continously monitoring the situation of OFWs in the Middle East. The OFWs are given food packs, face masks and hygiene kits, he said.
“Rest assured nakatutok ng Labor Office (the Labor Office is on top of this). Ako rin mismo may nakakausap na OFWs (Even I talk to the OFWs myself),” he assured.
Meanwhile, Cacdac said some 55,000 repatriated OFWs displaced by the pandemic, or whose contracts have expired, or scheduled for vacation, were already sent home to their provinces in the country.
He said they expect the arrival of 30,000 more OFWs in the next few weeks.
Aside from the food, transportation and accommodation assistance upon their arrival, the OFWs would also receive a P10,000 cash subsidy from the government.