Press Release
July 7, 2011

Sen. Pia on Saudi ban on Filipino domestic workers

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said the Philippine government should not relent in its efforts to obtain better employment terms for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia following the latter's decision to ban Filipino domestic workers.

"The government's political will to fight for better terms of employment is particularly crucial in the case of Filipina domestic helpers deployed in the Middle East. They not only leave their families behind but also become vulnerable to all forms of abuse, including sexual abuse by their employers, once they are deployed abroad without any meaningful mantle of protection in their labor contracts," said Cayetano who chairs the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations.

"In our government's search for employment opportunities for our people, we must always be mindful to strike a balance between their need for employment and their safety. That is why I believe that the Philippines did the right thing when it stood by its new conditions for the recruitment of domestic helpers in the Middle Eastern kingdom. These include setting the monthly minimum wage at US$400 (around P17,200 at P43:USS1) and requiring foreign employers to provide family information and the residence layout where the domestic helper will be working. "

She said Saudi Arabia's decision to ban our domestic helpers should serve as a cue for the government to rethink its labor deployment strategy. "Of course, we know that we have kababayans currently in Saudi Arabia who are the bread winners of their families. Thus, it is crucial that our government be quick to address this change of circumstances so that they are not left hanging without a source of income."

"We should continue to explore the possibility of working out better terms for our Filipino domestic workers, whom we know are highly preferred by foreign employers because of their work ethic and better communication skills. But there's little we can do if Saudi Arabia prefers to get domestic helpers from other countries at a cheaper price. The best thing to do is to shift focus and promote our OFWs as a premiere work force, which they are."

She noted that OFWs are at risk in countries like Saudi Arabia. "This is because Saudi Arabia, along with other Middle Eastern countries and most European countries, have not signed the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families."

The Convention aims to prevent and eliminate the exploitation of migrant workers throughout the entire migration process. In particular, it seeks to put an end to the illegal or clandestine recruitment and trafficking of migrant workers and to discourage the employment of migrant workers in an irregular or undocumented situation. It provides a set of binding international standards to address the treatment, welfare and human rights of both documented and undocumented migrants, as well as the obligations and responsibilities on the part of sending and receiving States.

"Our government is duty-bound to protect our workers. When we send them out or allow them to work in countries where their rights and well-being are not ensured, we are setting them up for disaster. Time has shown that cases of abuse of OFWs are more rampant in these receiving countries. We should thus take it upon ourselves to aggressively pursue bilateral negotiations with these countries to obtain basic protection for our OFWs."

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