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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Symposium on Saudization in Manila





Ms. Susan Ople of the Blas Ople Foreign Policy Ceter lead the Symposium on Saudization today June 23, 2011 at Midas Hotel, Roxas Boulevard, Manila. Atty. Koko Pimentel welcomed participants from the OFW Families, Recruitment Agency and the NGOs.
Mr. Lito Soriano presented a powerpoint showing statistics emphasizing on the nature of the deployment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) where only 36% are new hires and the majority at 64% are rehires. And of the total 2008 data from CFO (Comm. of Filipino Overseas), of the 2.2M deployed abroad 53% (47% the rest of the world) are found in the Middle East (ME) where 1.3 (regular and irregular/undocumented) Filipinos work in KSA. He stressed that the biggest challenge for OFWs in the Middle East is downsizing. It was re-echoed by a participant from a recruitment agency that once KSA implemented a successful Saudization it would follow that other countries in the ME would follow suit.
The Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affair (OUMWA) Executive Director Eric Endaya offered several suggestions in addressing and counteracting Saudization like expanding TESDA training, providing more consular offices and labor officials abroad, revisit and analyze
RA 10022 Amendatory Law on Magna Carta for Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos (provision on mandatory insurance for migrants deployed by recruitment and/or manning agencies. ). He proposed the need to include the private sector in reviewing the law and encouraged the symposium participants to submit their policy proposal to address Saudization.
In the forum PEBA founder Kenji Solis’s video interview was presented together with a video from Patnubay ng Riyadh. It was seen from the interviewed that some are not familiar about Saudization or still confused with it. Only few of them are aware of the color coding system of Nitaqat.

Mr. Jun Aguilar, Jr. of the Filipino Migrant Workers Group presented the Nitaqat System. The Saudization law which is aimed at placing skilled and qualified Saudis in a career field and creating business growth was already put forward since 1994 but this year in 2011 September 10; the Saudi government will fully implement the law. So only three months are given to those companies in the yellow (partially satisfied Saudization requirement, their employees going on 6 years will not be rehired if the company will not fully comply to reach the green category) and red (contravened or ignored Saudization) categories to comply with the law. OFW who are in the household work (domestic helper, gardener, etc) and those who work in companies with less than 10 workers are exempted from the law. Platinum (company with exceptional record) and green (company that complies with Saudization) categories are the safe companies that OFW should belong to.



According to Mr. Aguilar the Saudi government is keen to implement Saudization this time given that they have already outlined concrete process to implement it and providing penal provisions for those who will not comply. Several ministries are also linked on this effort that includes the Ministry of Labor, the Minsitry of Interior (that issues Iqama/Jawazat) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This action from the government of providing jobs for Saudis is seen as their answer in preventing revolts in the Kingdom like those that happened in other Gulf countries where youth are asking for jobs.

Although considered as an adversity but there is also opportunities that await OFWs like possible of being upgraded to a better paying and more stable job. The speaker suggested that OFWs be provided information in finding out companies in the platinum and green category; OFW families be prepared of the possible implication of Saudization; and for the government to come-up with a comprehensive reintegration plan for OFWs.


In the symposium the government representatives from OWWA and POEA were at the receiving end of several tough questions they managed to answer with their best. One of the contentions raised by recruitment agency is RA 10022 where they foresee themselves going bankrupt if they will be the ones to cover for repatriation of OFWs (deployed and covered under RA 10022) who will be affected by Saudization law.
















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