MANILA, Philippines – While he didn’t have the opportunity to save Filipinos in Saudi Arabia from death row, President Rodrigo Duterte will not come back empty-handed as the chief executive made it sure that his other countrymen, who are also in distress, will soon come home.
Duterte will also be bringing home multimillion-dollar worth of investments following the signing of seven business deals in Riyadh expected to create thousands of local jobs for Filipinos.
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello on Wednesday told reporters in Riyadh that the Saudi labor minister had “responded positively” to the Philippine government’s request to bring home some 160 Filipinos who had either escaped from their abusive employers or were victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
“We brought the issue or the case of runaway OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who are now presently sheltered in Bahay Kalinga, more or less 160 runaways. I requested to consider allowing the OFWs to come back to the Philippines upon the return of the President. The labor minister responded positively to my request,” Bello said.
The more than160 runaway OFWs do not yet include the 250 others who had already been given exit clearances by the Saudi government and 4,000 undocumented Filipinos illegally staying in the kingdom, according to the DOLE chief.
He said the Duterte administration was also looking into the possibility of banning the overseas deployment of Filipino household workers.
But right now, the Philippine government is taking actions to further ensure the safety of OFWs in Saudi Arabia, according to Bello. Saudi’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development and the Philippines’ DOLE signed a labor cooperation for general workers recruitment and employment during Duterte’s visit to the Arab state.
Besides Filipino runaways, Duterte will also be bringing home investments worth $470 million following the signing of seven business deals in Riyadh, which is expected to translate to thousands of jobs for Filipinos. Among the firms that signed the agreements were into halal production, hotels, pharmacy, manufacturing, agriculture, engineering, and logistics.
“The estimated amount of investment is about $470 million. That will create 16,000 new jobs in the country,” Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said at a press conference in Riyadh.
“We look forward to a much stronger relationship with Saudi Arabia. They’re doing a lot for our citizens here and we see bright prospects,” the DTI said.
“It was good that the President himself is our trade and investment ambassador. Every time he talks with his counterpart, he pushes for trade and asks them to buy more of our exports and invite investors to the Philippines and to take advantage of the current economic boom we are experiencing,” Lopez added.
Watch the video report by News5’s J.V. Arcena.