Wanted: RP envoy to Saudi Arabia

A GROUP of Filipino OFWs in Saudi Arabia urged President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, III to install a new ambassador there with strong credentials and plenty of experience on OFWs woes and concerns.

It’s been nearly four months when Antonio Villamor ended his tour of duty as Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Villamor, a political appointee of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was recalled by the Aquino government last Sept. 30 after a three-month term extension.

Jeddah-based Philippine Consul General Ezzadin Tago was designated as Charge de Affairs, ad interim at the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

Migrante-Saudi Arabia chairperson Mario Ben noted that Filipino OFWs in Saudi Arabia ranked third in sending remittance to the Philippines with $1.4-billion, next only to their counterparts from the United States and Canada.

There are around 1.2-million OFWs in Saudi Arabia, mostly domestic helpers and construction workers.

“We deserve a genuine service of pro-OFW envoy,” said Ben.

He earlier raised concern that Filipino victims of abuses, maltreatments and labor malpractices in Saudi Arabia may not get proper attention because of the absence of an envoy. It prompted the members of the Congressional Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) to hold a five-day investigation and consultation in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona reiterated their appeal to Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay, also the presidential adviser on OFWs concerns, to recall inept and negligent embassy officials in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

“The foreign affairs department must deploy pro-OFW and efficient diplomatic staff ready to give their best shot attending OFWs woes and concerns,” Monterona said.

He claimed that they’re receiving seven to 10 OFWs cases daily, ranging from abuses, maltreatment, and various labor malpractices.

Saudi Arabia is No.1 on the Top 10 OFWs destinations with almost 300,000 OFWs deployed last year according to the 2009 Overseas Employment Statistics by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Other Middle East countries on the Top 10 OFWs destinations are UAE (No. 2), Qatar (No. 4), Kuwait (No. 6) and Bahrain (No. 10). D’Jay Lazaro

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