BILATERAL TALK. Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople (left) and Saudi Arabia Deputy Minister for International Affairs of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development Adnan Abdullah Alnuaim. Ople will hold bilateral discussions with Saudi officials and meet representatives of the Filipino community. (Photo courtesy of DMW) 

MANILA – Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan ‘Toots’ Ople is currently in Saudi Arabia for a formal bilateral talk with the Saudi government.

Ople arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday from Singapore where she was part of the official delegation for the state visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

She was welcomed by Adnan Abdullah Alnuaim, Deputy Minister for International Affairs of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), upon her arrival.

Aside from meeting with Saudi Arabian officials, Ople is also set to meet with representatives of the Filipino community.

She will also visit government-run shelters to check the situation of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) there.

Meanwhile, Ople thanked the members of the House Committee on Appropriations for approving the department’s first-ever budget.

The DMW-approved 2023 budget is PHP15.2 billion.

Undersecretary Hans Cacdac led the contingent of DMW officials who presented the department’s budget before members of the House appropriations committee.

Of the total approved budget, Ople said some PHP3.5 billion was allocated for the Office of the Secretary and the department’s various units and bureaus.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), an attached agency of the DMW, has an allocation of PHP11.7 billion.

The House committee will also endorse an increase in the PHP13-million budget of the OFW Hospital based in Mabalacat, Pampanga to about PHP200-250 million for its capital outlay and operating expenses.

"We draw inspiration and courage from the kind words of support for the DMW's budget from the committee chair Rep. David ‘Jay-Jay’ Suarez and all its members, as we begin formal bilateral labor talks here in Saudi Arabia," Ople said.

DMW data shows that there are a total of 187,370 OFWs based in Saudi Arabia in 2021, while the department recorded a total of 54,108 OFWs from January to June this year. (PNA)