OWWA collecting money from distress, stranded OFWs- group

ACTING on the complaints by some distress and stranded OFWs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a chapter of Migrante in Jeddah Tuesday slammed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) officials for collecting money from distress and stranded OFWs.

“We have been receiving complaints from distress and stranded OFWs, who are now at the deportation center, cell nos. 14 and 16, that OWWA officials are asking them to pay for their airfare tickets, so that they could be repatriated,” said Marlon Gatdula, Migrante-Saudi Arabia deputy secretary-general.

Gatdula said the distress and stranded OFWs at cell no. 14 and 16 have been calling him since last week that OWWA administrative officer Anthony Basil and Mashur Konting, OWWA case officer, allegedly had been asking the distress and stranded OFWs an amount from 1,200 to 2,000 Saudi riyals for their airfare tickets.

“Looking forward to be repatriated, some of the distress and stranded will try their best to get an amount for their airfare by asking help from their relatives in the Philippines, but what is confusing us is that there is a 100-M OWWA repatriation fund intended for that purpose,” Gatdula added.

Gatdula added: “Why then these OWWA officials in Jeddah are asking the distress and stranded OFWs to pay for their airfare tickets? –the fact that they have been in distress and stranded for months now which would mean they could hardly provide their airfare, -why squeeze them until they bleed?” Gatdula averred.

Meanwhile, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator said yesterday he called on PH consulate general and Charge de affaires Ezzadin Tago informing him of the matter and requesting him to act on the complaints of the distress and stranded.

“Congen Tago denied it but promised to get the attention of OWWA officials in Jeddah,” Monterona added.

Monterona said in so many instances that they have been receiving the same complaints. Is there an internal policy by OWWA to ask distress and stranded OFWs to pay for their own ticket?” asked Monterona

“There is nothing wrong OWWA soliciting from businessmen and politicians to raise an amount for the airfare of distress and stranded OFWs; but airfare tickets should not be a burden and a cause of delays for the eventual repatriation of stranded OFWs,” Monterona added.

“But again where’s the P100-M OWWA repatriation fund?” asked Monterona.

Monteron and Gatdula convey to the President: “Sir, for humanitarian consideration, show your care to our distress and stranded OFWs by instructing OWWA to provide airfare tickets to 500+ stranded OFWs, some with children who are reported sick, in Jeddah so that they could be home with their respective families.”-D’Jay Lazaro

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