'Saudization' no impact yet on OFW deployment

Posted at 07/16/2011 8:06 AM | Updated as of 07/17/2011 11:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Overseas Employment Administration Administrator Carlos Cao said the “Saudization” policy has no impact yet on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Cao told a press conference Wednesday the Saudization or nitaqat system–a nationalization-related labor policy that directs companies to prioritize Saudi nationals in employment–will not be implemented “drastically” and “on a full scale”.

“If they move on a full-scale implementation, how can they send home the big number of migrant workers there,” Cao said, adding that the Saudization policy is “a complex and complicated policy,” which will be implemented in a “gradual and calibrated” manner.

Saudi Arabia is currently home to more than 8 million expatriates, and the Philippines is currently the fourth largest in population with more or less 1.2 million expatriates. Pakistan tops the list with close to 1.8 million expatriates, followed by India and Egypt with 1.5 million and 1.3 million expatriates, respectively.

The OFW Journalism Consortium reported recently that Saudi Arabia as the destination country of new-hire and rehire OFWs reached a seven-year high with 293,049 workers, citing latest data (2010) from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show.

OFWs deployed to the Kingdom make up 26.07% of the 1,123,676 new-hire and rehired land-based OFWs deployed that year.

Still, Filipino Migrant Workers Group chairman Francisco Aguilar Jr. advises OFWs there to “check the status of their company” and prepare for return to the Philippines.

“We advise them to determine if their company is in the yellow and red categories, if so, they can scout for other companies, which are in the green and platinum [blue] categories. It will bring no harm to them for it is clear in the nitaqat system that those in the green and blue [category] can get workers from the yellow and red category, even without the NOC [no objection certificate],” Aguilar, a former contract worker in Saudi, explained.

Should OFWs from Saudi Arabia be displaced, Department of Labor and Employment communications director Nicon Fameronag said government will provide reintegration assistance to returning OFWs.

Cao, for his part, said OFWs from Saudi Arabia may go to other possible market destinations such as Guam, Australia, and Canada.

A recent report quoted Philippine Ambassador to Doha Crescente Relacion as saying that those to be affected by Saudization might go to Qatar.