MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines needs to reinvigorate bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia to maintain its edge over other labor-sending countries.
“At a time when all of these reforms in Saudi Arabia are taking place, we need a more vibrant economic diplomacy to maintain our competitive advantage over other labor-sending countries,” said Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.
Ople said the Philippine government needs to do this, following the Kingdom's new policies aimed at regulating the number of foreign workers and their remittances.
The Ministry of Labor in Saudi Arabia had announced that it is planning to launch a “salary protection” program to encourage foreign workers to keep the bulk of their wages within the Kingdom.
Ople said the Philippines will be affected by loss of jobs and reduced incomes arising from Saudi Arabia’s NITAQAT policy and a forthcoming plan to limit the outflow of foreign remittances. The OFW advocate noted that other Gulf states are also keenly observing the effects of Saudi Arabia's nationalization policy.
“We need to expand our bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia to include trade and tourism agreements. This would strengthen our diplomatic hand and reinforce our competitive advantage over other labor-sending countries,” Ople said.
The former labor undersecretary also called on the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment, to step up its information campaign about NITAQAT (“Ranges”), the Ministry of Labor’s implementing program under its Saudization policy.
Ople noted that the Saudization program is now in full swing with its third phase to be implemented on November 26.
“In phase 3 of NITAQAT, employees of companies in noncompliant or those in the so-called 'red' category would have to transfer to ‘green’ or compliant companies by November 26 which is but a few weeks from now,” she said.
The Blas F. Ople Center urged workers in Saudi Arabia who are affected by the Saudization policy to immediately get in touch with the Philippine Embassy or to write to the Ople Center via [email protected]
Families of affected workers can also contact the Ople Center via its hotline: 8335337.