By Ma. Cristina C. Arayata
MANILA — “We could not go out. Policemen usually held check points. Some of our co-workers were even jailed.”
This has been the plight of 37 year-old Dennis Yumang and his fellow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Al Khobar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), particularly from the construction company, Mohammad Al-Mojil Group (MMG).
In an exclusive interview with the Philippines News Agency (PNA), Yumang said MMG wasn’t able to give them their salaries and benefits for almost two years now.
He said some of his fellow OFWs have filed for vacation while others filed for final exit (visas).
“We, however, didn’t have a choice but to stay, since we were waiting for our salaries and benefits,” he explained.
As they kept on waiting, their visas, passports and other documents got expired.
“We could not go out. Policemen usually held check points. Some of our co-workers were even jailed,” described Lumang about their situation, having expired papers.
“Salamat nalang kay Tatay Digong,” the OFW uttered, emphasizing that they found hope in the current administration.
Yumang said that in 2014, they sought help from the past administration, but nothing happened.
“When (President Rodrigo Duterte) assumed his post, that was the time when we were given attention,” Yumang remarked.
He also lamented that the embassy there knew about their problem since 2014, “but there was no action taken” according to him.
So how did they make ends meet for almost two years?
“The company shoulders our food and lodging there, though sometimes, we only have soup to eat,” he cited.
Other Filipinos have helped them, he added.
How did they survive? “Kapit sa Panginoon. Kumukuha ng lakas sa panalangin,” he answered.
Yumang said he has been in Al Khobar for almost 10 years. He tried to hide the problem from his family on the first six months.
“But since I could not send them money, I told them what was going on,” the OFW from Bulacan said.
Yumang was very happy that help came under the Duterte administration.
At around 10 a.m. Wednesday, Yumang and 128 other OFWs from MMG arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2. They were repatriated by the Philippine government.
President Duterte took time to meet them at the airport.
Yumang shared that even before they left KSA, representatives from various government agencies have talked to them.
The Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has offered to provide them with training courses for free.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), on the other hand, said it would provide educational benefits for their children.
“The government would also help us fight for our unclaimed benefits and wages,” he added.
Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told PNA the government is expecting around 1,000 other OFWs to be repatriated from KSA.
These OFWs are from two different companies who have suffered from financial woes like the MMG.
Bello said these OFWs will come home not later than Sept. 9.
“OFWs should not be neglected. They’re even a major contributor to the economy, contributing about Php 1 trillion per year,” he said. (PNA)