LABOR Secretary Silvestre Bello III has ordered the temporary suspension of deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) effective May 27, Thursday.
This after the Department has received reports that departing OFWs are being required by their employers/foreign recruitment agencies to shoulder the cost of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
In addition, OFWs were also required to pay for their insurance coverage premium upon entry to KSA.
Acting on the reports, Bello has instructed Administrator Bernard Olalia of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to effect the temporary suspension of OFW deployment to KSA.
Bello, who also chairs the POEA Governing Board, said that the suspension will only be lifted after the matter has been clarified accordingly.
In Memorandum Circular No. 1, Series of 2021 issued by POEA early this year, the licensed Philippine recruitment agencies and/or the principals/employers of the OFWs should be responsible for the cost of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
They shall provide the appropriate free COVID-19 testing to the workers, as required by the employer and the country of destination.
They are also tasked to provide social protection benefits, such as health and medical insurance, as well as occupational health and safety provisions, including hygiene kits and personal protective equipment in the workplace in adherence to the workplace guidelines issued by the World Health Organization.
The licensed Philippine recruitment agencies and/or the principals/employers also have the responsibility to provide meals, accommodation, and transportation from the point of hire to the intended destination to ensure that the deployed workers are negative for COVID-19 before deployment.