Labor chief again warns of deployment ban on Saudi Arabia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 13) — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday warned he will again push for a deployment ban on Saudi Arabia if it refuses to settle the billions' worth of unpaid wages and benefits of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

In a briefing, Bello said the Middle Eastern country still hasn't paid the claims of thousands of OFWs who were repatriated in 2016 after their employers did not pay them — some, for as long as two years.

According to the Labor chief, the total claims amount to ₱4.6 billion.

"Kapag hindi tayo pinagbigyan [If they still refuse to pay], I will again recommend a deployment ban," he warned.

Bello added he will bring up the issue in an upcoming meeting with his Saudi counterpart and other labor ministers from around the world.

"I will not give them any more grace period," he added. "The settlement should be now and not later. Mahigit apat na taon na 'yan eh. Hirap na hirap na 'yung ating mga kababayan [It's been over four years. Our fellow Filipinos have been struggling because of it]."

In late September, the Department of Labor and Employment also threatened to halt the deployment of Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia following complaints of maltreatment by OFWs against their employer — a retired Saudi Arabian military general.

At that time, two of the over a dozen complainants were still in the hands of the allegedly abusive employer.

Last week, DOLE Information and Public Service director Rolly Francia said the suspension will no longer push through as the two remaining employees were already in the custody of Philippine authorities and were set to go home.