Saudi Arabia asks for more time to settle salaries owed to sacked OFWs

Saudi Arabia asks for more time to settle salaries owed to sacked OFWs
View from Riyadh's Kingdom Centre-Sky Bridge.
Philstar.com / Kristine Joy Patag

MANILA, Philippines — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is asking for more time to hammer out the details of paying overseas Filipino workers salaries owed them since the 2010s.

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople said officials from the Department of Migrant Workers were supposed to travel to Saudi Arabia last month, but their counterpart – the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development – asked to defer the meeting.

She added that the department expects to hear back from the ministry this week with an updated schedule.

"They requested for more time to arrange our visit because they apparently are not the ones responsible for processing the unpaid claims. So they wanted time for certain arrangements to be made so that when I go there, I will be able to meet with the right person in the office of the crowned prince," Ople said in a press briefing on Tuesday. 

While meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit last November, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that the kingdom will compensate some 10,000 Filipino workers who are still waiting for their unpaid salaries. The compensation package is reportedly worth two billion riyals, or around P29.2 billion.

The OFWs who were then working for construction firms were laid off after the kingdom plunged into an economic crisis in 2015. 

READ: Philippines says Saudi Arabia to pay Filipino workers owed wages

Ople said she wanted to be "cautious" on the updates she gives publicly, since the issue is "emotionally charged."

She said she wanted to defer comment until the meeting in Saudi Arabia, adding "we cannot be specific out of respect to the ones we are in talks with."

Ople said she met with some of the claimants who were laid off years ago and many were disappointed after expecting that their wages will finally be distributed in December. 

The department has already previously warned to be wary of those who introduce themselves as middlemen, faking to be part of discussions offering assistance to process their claims.

RELATED: OFWs claiming back wages: Be wary of fake ‘middlemen’

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