PARTNERSHIP. In celebration of World Cleanup Day 2022, the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia joins Filipino volunteers for the Saudi Green Initiative and the Association for Surplus Recycling and Grace Preserving at the tourist attraction Red Sand Dunes in Riyadh on Sept. 16, 2022. Filipinos will again be deployed to Saudi starting November 7 after the deployment ban was lifted and the two nations agreed to protect workers’ rights. (Courtesy of PH Embassy in Saudi Arabia Facebook)

MANILA – Once both overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their employers in Saudi Arabia fully understand each other's cultures, conflict and abuses may be avoided, Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration chief Arnell Ignacio said on Tuesday.

Reacting to the recent announcement of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) that the deployment ban on OFWs to Saudi Arabia will be lifted starting November 7, Ignacio suggested a deeper cultural orientation for both OFWs and their Arab employers.

"Palagay ko, malaking bagay dito ang paigtingin ang (I think, it's a big thing here to improve the) orientation sa ating mga kababayan (for our citizens) when they go the Middle East. At the same time, hinihikayat natin na magkaroon din ng (we also encourage to also have an) orientation 'yung ating mga kapatid na Arab para magkaroon ng mas magandang pagkakapalitan ng unawaan pagdating sa kultura (for our Arab brothers and sisters to have a good exchange of understanding when it comes to culture)," Ignacio said in an interview with news portal SMNI.

He said having a mutual understanding of culture is an ideal start, especially when working on a foreign land.

He said he is counting on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the Philippine government that it will improve mechanisms to ensure the protection of Filipino workers’ rights and welfare.

"I mean, kung meron tayong aksyon dito, tatapatan nila ng aksyon din sa (if we do our action here, they will also do their part in) Saudi Arabia. So, mas naging matibay yung ating relasyon kaya maraming salamat din sa gobyerno ng (the relationship became stronger that is why we also thank the government of) Saudi Arabia," Ignacio said.

DMW Secretary Susan Ople said Saudi Arabia and the Philippine government agreed to constitute a Technical Working Group to monitor labor reforms and jointly resolve the concerns of workers.

Both nations will implement a Blacklist and a Whitelist of Saudi recruitment agencies and employers; revise the Standard Employment Contract of OFWs to reflect all guarantees under the Saudi Labor Reform Initiatives, including insurance for unpaid wages, timely release of salaries through electronic payments, and a pre-termination clause; convene regular Joint Committee Meetings to ensure full compliance with the agreements and address challenges in the implementation of these labor reforms; and sign a memorandum of understanding on combating trafficking in persons, investigating and prosecuting offenders, and providing support to OFW victims of trafficking in persons.

Ahmed Al-Rajhi, Saudi Minister for Human Resources and Social Development, signed agreements with the DMW on the resumption of deployment of OFWs to the Kingdom.

“We are grateful to Minister Al-Rajhi and the government of Saudi Arabia for sharing our concern for the rights of our workers. Likewise, we intend to move forward by working together on implementing mechanisms that would ensure the protection of our workers’ rights and welfare,” Ople said in a previous statement. (PNA)