The government returns 347 stranded Filipinos from the Middle East
The return of 347 worried Filipinos from Saudi Arabia, including five children afflicted by the coronavirus epidemic, marked the start of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s formal visit to the country.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte sent Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert E.A. Borje to Saudi Arabia on Saturday for an official visit aimed at strengthening bilateral relations, promoting labor reform collaboration, and guaranteeing the welfare of Filipinos in the Arab nation.
“We appreciate the support of our Embassy in Riyadh, the Consulate General in Jeddah, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Saudi Arabian government. Given the pandemic scenario, this return took a lot of effort and coordination,” Borje added. “However, this repatriation operation was a success because the Filipino was at the heart of all efforts. Maraming Salamat (Thank you very much) at Shukran! on behalf of President Duterte!
As part of the Philippine government’s repatriation effort from Saudi Arabia, the repatriates went home aboard a Philippine Airlines chartered aircraft. Next week, a second repatriation flight is planned.
The repatriates will get financial support from the Philippine government upon arrival in Manila, as directed by Duterte.
In a video message, Duterte stated, “Bilang tulong po sa inyo (As a help to you), I have ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to utilize Bayanihan 2 money to provide all returned OFWs today P10,000 apiece as reintegration financial support.”
Borje emphasized Duterte’s ongoing care and concern for overseas Filipinos who are suffering as a result of the epidemic, as well as the Philippine government’s commitment to OFWs.
The repatriation operation on Saturday is based on Duterte’s pledge to care for Overseas Filipinos (OFs) all over the globe, especially in light of the current Covid-19 epidemic. The protection of OFWs in Kalinga and Malasakit remains a top concern for the Duterte government.
“Maraming salamat sa DFA, particularly sa Office of Migrant Workers’ Affairs, sa patuloy na koordinasyon sa Office of the President at sa paghahanap ng paraan para malunasan ang nararanasan ng ating mga kababayan (Thank you very much to DFA, particularly the Office of Migrant Workers’ Affairs, for
His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud were also praised for facilitating the return.
Earlier this year, during a phone call with President Duterte, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud promised him that the Kingdom will “continue working jointly” with the Philippine government to protect migrant workers’ rights. This includes helping in the repatriation of Filipinos in difficulty.
Sarah Lou Arriola, Undersecretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, JV Arcena, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Presidential Communications Operations for Global Media and Public Affairs, and Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto were also present during the repatriation.
Since the beginning of the epidemic in March last year, the government has returned a total of 403,234 abroad Filipinos. There are 105,582 sailors and 297,652 land-based OFs.
According to a government projection for 2020, Saudi Arabia has more than 800,000 Filipinos, the largest number in any Gulf state.
About half of all Filipinos work as domestic workers, with the rest working in the kingdom’s construction, outsourcing, and healthcare industries.