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Ban on Saudi Arabia-bound OFWs lifted

The deployment of Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia has resumed after the Philippine government lifted the temporary suspension on Saturday.

The Saudi Embassy in Manila announced the resumption over Twitter and assured that overseas Filipino workers would not be burdened by the travel protocol costs upon their arrival in the kingdom.

“The embassy would like to report on the resumption of sending Filipino workers after the temporary suspension, in agreement with the Filipino side, and to clarify the Kingdom’s government’s keenness to protect departing workers from the costs of precautionary protocols,” the embassy said in a statement.

OFWs bound for Riyadh numbering to 283 and Dammam – 120 were left stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Friday after they were barred from boarding their flights due to the suspension order issued by the Department of Labor and Employment.

The temporary suspension came following initial reports that Filipinos were being required by their employers to shoulder the cost of health and safety protocols for the coronavirus disease 2019 and insurance coverage premium upon entry to Saudi Arabia.

It was learned that the cost of the institutional quarantine and insurance is 3,500 Saudi rials, or about P47,000.

In a separate statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he already advised the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to immediately implement the lifting of the suspension and provide the necessary clearance to all departing Filipino workers.

“In the interest of the service, the temporary suspension of OFWs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is hereby lifted effective immediately,” Bello informed POEA chief Bernard Olalia through a memorandum.

Bello said, in a statement, that the DOLE received official communication from the Saudi government that Filipino workers will not shoulder the costs of quarantine and insurance in connection with the country’s health protocols against Covid-19.

He also asked for understanding and apologized to the OFWs, who were barred from leaving.

“I understand that the suspension order drew confusion and irritation among our affected departing OFWs,” he said. “Again, I apologize for the inconvenience and momentary anguish that it may have caused our dear OFWs. It was in the best interest of our OFWs that such a decision had to be made.”*PNA

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