DOLE orders temporary OFW deployment ban to Saudi Arabia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 28) — The Department of Labor and Employment has suspended the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah said Friday.

Following the directive of Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Jeddah "will not accept and process job orders and employment contracts starting Sunday, May 30, 2021, until further notice," it said in a statement.

In a memorandum dated May 27, Bello directed Administrator Bernard P. Olalia of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to implement the temporary deployment ban.

The ban was imposed following reports of the alleged refusal of foreign employers and agencies to pay for workers' expenses for health and safety protocols, as well as insurance coverage.

"The Department received reports that departing OFWs are being required by their employers/foreign recruitment agencies to shoulder the costs of the health and safety protocol for COVID-19 and insurance coverage premium upon their entry in the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia]," the DOLE chief said.

"The Department will be issuing an official statement on the resumption of deployment in the KSA after this matter has been clarified accordingly," he added.

According to Rolly Francia, DOLE-Information and Publication Service director, a total of 464 OFWs were affected today by the hasty implementation of the deployment ban.

Francia also defended Bello's decision, saying the Labor chief acted in the "best interests" of OFWs.

In a statement, flag carrier Philippine Airlines said the Philippine government failed to inform the company of the temporary ban.

"We had not received any official government order directing airlines not to accept OFWs bound for Saudi Arabia, but we complied with verbal instructions from the immigration authorities who are no longer accepting OFWs for travel," the airline said.

The ban prevented 403 OFWs from joining flights from Manila to Riyadh and Dammam.

"We have appealed with the Government on behalf of our OFW passengers and hope for a positive resolution," PAL said.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration assured the stranded OFWs they will be provided with hotel accommodations.