MANILA — More than 400 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are set to return to the country together with President Rodrigo Duterte following talks with Saudi Arabia, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.
In a press briefing in Manama, Bahrain, on Friday, Bello said the workers' return is part of the 90-day mass amnesty program of Saudi Arabia.
"When the president goes home on Monday, he will be bringing with him not less than 400 workers," Bello said.
President Rodrigo Duterte is in Bahrain, the second leg of a week-long series of state visits to 3 Middle East countries. He was in Saudi Arabia earlier this week and is set to fly to Qatar on Saturday.
The labor chief also clarified that the 400 workers are from Riyadh only, 250 of which availed the amnesty program.
Another 160 OFWs, deemed as "runaways" or victims of illegal recruiters that left their foreign employers and are currently staying in shelters, will go home following an agreement between Bello and the Saudi Arabian labor department.
Bello said the repatriation of thousands of other OFWs will take some time because many of them still have unpaid wages.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has also reportedly offered a plane to carry 200 OFWs back to the Philippines, Bello said. The transport of the remaining workers will be shouldered by Manila.
In a press conference ahead of Duterte's arrival in Saudi Arabia, Iric Arribas, the Philippine consul general in Riyadh, on Monday said about 5,000 undocumented Filipinos are expected to avail of the amnesty.
"Ang amnesty naman binibigyan sila ng pagkakataon na umuwi sa Pilipinas at makabalik din dito sa Saudi Arabia pero meron nang papel, may visa nang maayos," he said.
(An amnesty gives workers the chance to go home to the Philippines and return to Saudi Arabia, but with the proper papers and visa.)