VP Binay cancels Saudi visit ; OFWs express disappointment

OVERSEAS Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia Monday expressed  disappointment upon receiving a report that Vice President Jejomar Binay will not anymore visit Saudi Arabia as originally planned.

On the itinerary of his visit released to the media, the Vice president will be arriving Kuwait on February 26 via Dubai and will stay there until February 27. His delegation will be flying, early morning to Saudi Arabia on the February 28 and will stay until next day to meet officials of the host government, PH embassy and labor officials and a series of consultations with the Filipino community.

The Vice President will instead be flying today to Kuwait via Kuwait Airways flight code KU 673 at 15:10 and will be arriving in Dubai at 17:40.

Mario Ben, Chairperson of Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter, said: “This is again a missed opportunity, not only for us OFWs but also to the Vice President who is also the presidential adviser on OFWs concerns.”

Ben cited this is the 2nd time that the planned visit to Saudi Arabia by the Vice President has been postponed.

“We, OFWs and the Fillipino community, in Saudi Arabia have been expecting VP Binay to visit us last December but it was postponed citing conflict of schedules and earlier commitment,” Ben added.

Ben said they don’t know yet what is the reason for the cancellation of his scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia, but according to initial information, his delegation failed to get a visa.

“Aside of not getting a visa, the Saudi’s King is also not available to meet the Vice President; these are the reasons we heard why his delegation could not anymore visit us,” Ben added.

Ben said: “If these are indeed the reasons, then OFWs is not what VP Binay wanted to meet, no need to hearing their issues and concerns.”

“It appears now that his planned visit to Saudi Arabia and in other Arab states, lacks sincerity on his part to meet OFWs and hear their legitimate issues and concerns as it is only secondary among his priorities like meeting the host government officials and PH embassy and labor officials,” Ben averred.

“The Vice President had asked the embassy in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi to give him an update on the status of cases of OFWs and what actions have been taken by the embassies,” the statement issued by the Office of the Vice President, posted on its website.

“Outside of the special concerns generated by the present crisis in those areas, I intend to pursue whatever arrangements are necessary and possible to improve the general working conditions and status of our global workers in the Middle East, especially those working as domestics, and specifically those involved in cases needing immediate official help,” Binay said in the same statement.

Usec. Seguis in Saudi

Meanwhile, it was known that DFA Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis is in Saudi Arabia, days ago prior to the planned visit of VP Binay.

“Usec Seguis has been in Riyadh for a couple of days prior to the planned visit of VP Binay; so we find it strange of not getting a visa for VP Binay and his delegation be a reason for the cancellation of his visit to Saudi Arabia,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

“As we see it, VP Binay scheduled visit to Saudi had been disrupted by Usec Seguis ‘surprised’ visit who have been calling a meeting among PH embassy and labor officials and selected Filipino community leaders prior to VP Binay scheduled meeting” Monterona averred.

Monterona said: “Not only has the Vice President owed an explanation to us but also Usec. Seguis -of his purpose in coming to Saudi, if he did not serve as an advance party of VP Binay delegation.”

“So to whom we will address OFWs legitimate issues and concerns in Saudi such as the 200+ stranded OFWs, some with children, in Al-Mina hajj terminal in Jeddah; the 1,200 jailed OFWs including a hundreds of overstaying jailed OFWs and 8 OFWs on death row; the case of murdered OFW Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez and other cases of unsolved ‘mysterious’ deaths; the 120+ distress OFWs staying at the Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh, among many others?” Monterona asked.

“We can’t expect PNoy would be addressing these issues as he had in fact designated VP Binay as his trouble-shooter on OFWs numerous problems and concerns,” Monterona said.

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