PH envoy told: Resolve OFWs’ complaints with Saudi Arabia ‘diplomatically, but forcefully’

Do it diplomatically but forcefully.

This is the advice Rep. Rodente Marcoleta gave to Renato Pedro Villa, Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), on how to deal with the claim of 12,000 Filipino overseas workers (OFWs) of unpaid back wages estimated to reach P1-billion.

"I will do my best,’’ Villa told Marcoleta during the Commission on Appointment’s (CA) deliberation on his appointment on Wednesday, May 31.

Villa’s nomination, along with six other envoys, was confirmed by the CA in today’s, plenary session of the CA or before Congress goes into sine die adjournment this week.

He said the mechanics of paying the 12,000 OFWs are now being ironed out. The claims, according to Villa, date back to 2014.

Villa also explained that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam had discussed the issue of the OFWs’ back wages already during the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC) in Thailand last year.

It was agreed that Salman was to shoulder the P1-billion, he said.

Marcoleta pressed Villa to pursue the P1-billion paid packages claim by threatening a shift in Philippine  support for Saudi’s 30th World Expo in Riyadh, KSA in 2030  to Busan, South Korea.

But Villa pointed out there are three major reasons why the Philippines should support Saudi Arabia: and these include “oil, the presence of 830,000 Filipinos in the KSA,  and the Organization of Islamic  Countries (OIC).”

Villa also said the KSA would be needing 500,000 Filipino technical and skilled workers for its “technology city."

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), the country’s modern heroes, must have direct access to Philippine ambassadors in their foreign posts.,

Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, vice chairman of the committee on foreign affairs of the CA, stressed the need for OFWs--the country’s modern heroes-- to have direct access to Philippine ambassadors in their foreign posts.

"Our OFWs abroad must have direct access to you, our ambassadors. Dapat mas maramdaman ng ating mga kababayan abroad ang presensya ninyo lalo na sa mga panahong sila ay lubos na nangangailanga (Our countrymen abroad should feel your presence and  your assistance during their hour of need). Hindi na dapat pang dumaan sa social media, radyo, telebisyon o sa iba pang panawagan ang ating mga OFWs upang humingi ng tulongn(They should not go through social media, radio, TV and other means by which they could seek help),’’ Go said.

"Our ambassadors should always live and serve championing the rights, welfare, and interest of our OFWs, yung mga hopeless, helpless at lalo na yung walang matakbuhan (the hopeless, helpless who have no one to turn to),’’ he added.

"This function of yours is, for me, more important than meeting with fellow dignitaries...As ambassadors, you carry the hopes and aspirations of our beloved country. We are placing our utmost trust and confidence in each and every one of you believing that you will rise to the challenge and surpass expectations in your diplomatic endeavors,’’ he added.