March 28, 2008
For reference: Connie Bragas-Regalado
Chairperson - Migrante International
Migrante demands reimbursement of plane tickets for some stranded OFWs
An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families today held a picket protest in front of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to demand the immediate reimbursement of plane tickets shouldered by stranded OFWs from Jeddah. At the same time, they called for a full accounting of OWWA's repatriation funds and the release of names of OFWs reportedly slated for repatriation in the coming weeks.
"Despite personal assurances from RP Jeddah Consulate General Ezzedin Tago to a group of 24 stranded OFWs who subscribed to his so-called 'due process' for repatriation; these OFWs were thrown for more than a month inside Saudi Arabia's deportation centers and then compelled to pay for their own tickets home. We demand that the Arroyo government, particularly the OWWA, reimburse them immediately," says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson during the group's mass filing for reimbursements at the OWWA main office in Pasay City .
According to six OFWs recently repatriated, they and their families were told by the OWWA and the Jeddah consulate that they had to produce up to P20,000 for their tickets home.
"This contradicts public pronouncements by the OWWA and a written report by the DFA that says the Philippine government will pay for the tickets. It also violates stipulations in the Migrant Workers Act that says if an OFW's recruitment agency does not comply with orders to provide a plane ticket, it is the OWWA that should pay for this cost and the funds are to come from a P100 million Emergency Repatriation Fund," she added, citing Article XV (Repatriation of Filipino Migrant Workers) of the Omnibus Rules and Regulations Implementing RA 8042.
"It's despicable that in spite of the fact the stranded OFWs already had no money because they were victims of underpayment or nonpayment of their salaries and were without work for many months, the Arroyo government dared to squeeze from them the cost of their repatriation. A full accounting of the P100 million Emergency Repatriation Fund is needed to ensure it too hasn't fallen victim to the high-level corruption endemic in this administration," said Bragas-Regalado.
During the group's picket at the OWWA, they also called for the release of names of those reportedly slated for repatriation to address the confusion ensuing among the OFWs and their families about who is set to come home.