A PARTY-list lawmaker on Friday sought a congressional probe of the ongoing “Saudization” drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that continues to affect thousands of overseas Filipino workers.
Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III of ACTS-OFW party-list stressed the need for Congress to look into the matter following a recent announcement from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development on the plans of the Saudi government to “nationalize” its health workers.
The plan is now the subject of a joint study by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, and will be implemented once approved by the Saudi government, Bertiz said.
“We need to prepare for any contingency that would lead to the return of more workers from Saudi Arabia. The House inquiry will look into the national reintegration program and what it offers to those being affected by the downturn in the Saudi economy amid efforts to allocate more jobs to its citizens,” Bertiz said.
The lone OFW representative in Congress also called on the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment to come up with a unified forecast on job prospects in the Middle East.
“Information regarding security and economic developments in the Middle East are not as openly disseminated to the public. We need veteran ears on the ground, and experts that can read the writing on the wall so that our stakeholders are guided properly,” Bertiz added.
He said the private recruitment industry would also be affected once the Saudi government proceeds with its Saudization of health workers. The Philippine Statistics Authority in its 2015 survey said that one out of every four OFWs is in Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia remains our biggest labor-destination country. We share common interests as allies and as economic partners. At this time that they are confronted with austerity measures, we need to be more understanding and supportive of their internal efforts for reform. Having said that, we must also prepare for any impact that such reforms may have on our own workers and the families that they support.”
The effects of a reduction in foreign workers in Saudi Arabia’s health sector would be hard on families of Filipino health workers in the Kingdom, Bertiz said.
“When Saudi Arabia first announced its Nitaqat (Saudization) program a few years ago, no one in the Philippine government thought it would happen because of the Kingdom’s heavy reliance on foreign workers. Yet, it did take place and remains a continuing campaign. So we should draw lessons from that experience, and prepare for the eventuality that they would reduce or even cut dependence on our health workers,” Bertiz stressed.