One hundred thirty-nine (139) Filipinos who were granted exit visas under Saudi Arabia’s “Nation Without Violations” amnesty program arrived at 3:40 am today on board Saudia Airlines flight SV 7079.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte, along with Cabinet members and ranking government officials, welcomed the repatriated overseas Filipino workers comprised of sixty-five (65) females and twenty (20) children coming from Bahay Kalinga (or female shelter), and another fifty-four (54) males who resided in the Estiraha (or male shelter), including sixteen (16) walk-in clients at the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia.
The 90-day Saudi Arabian amnesty program was launched on 29 March 2017. On the same day, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III deployed a “Rapid Response Team” composed of DOLE Undersecretary Dominador S. Say, Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac, OWWA, Deputy Administrator Brigido J. Dulay, OWWA lawyer Cesar L. Chavez, Jr., OWWA and POEA lawyer Anna Patricia P. Jacobo to assess the situation of the OFWs availing of the amnesty program.
Due to goodwill generated by the visit of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia chartered a plane to fly the OFWs back to the country for free, at no cost to the Philippine government.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) headed by Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) repatriation team extended airport assistance to the returning OFWs such as the travel document processing, use of a special immigration lane, and baggage assistance.
OWWA also provided post-repatriation services to the workers which include temporary shelter at the OWWA Halfway Home, psycho-social counseling/stress debriefing, and transport services. Each worker, whether active or inactive OWWA member, received five thousand pesos (Php 5,000.00) cash assistance from the Office of the President as well as an additional five thousand pesos (Php 5,000.00) from DOLE/OWWA.
The OFWs likewise offered the returning OFWs a package of services from the DOLE Assist WELL program that provides “Welfare, Employment, Livelihood, and Legal Assistance” to displaced workers.
OWWA members can avail of the Balik-Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay Program - a non-cash livelihood package worth ten thousand (Php 10,000.00) consisting of a starter kit and techno-skills training. Non-OWWA members, on the other hand, shall be referred to the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) for availment of their non-cash training and livelihood program.
The OWWA Repatriation Team and the 24/7 Operations Center, in close coordination with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in KSA, are in full alert in monitoring the updates on flight advisories and schedules of arrivals of the succeeding batches of returning workers availing of the amnesty program.