'Repatriated OFWs' salaries remain high priority'

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 01 2016 05:16 AM | Updated as of Sep 01 2016 09:15 AM

MANILA – Elmer Gastanis, a repatriated OFW from Saudi Arabia, smiled when he realized that finally, after months of stress in Saudi Arabia, he is finally home.

But his eyes betray his real feelings: he became teary eyed, knowing he had nothing to bring home to his five children. His brows wrinkled as he began to worry about his family's future.

Mirroring the same expression is his co- worker, Michael Grindolo. He had nothing to say but this cry for help: get work as soon as possible.

Gastanis and Grindolo are just two of the almost 200 OFWs who arrived at NAIA on Wednesday from Saudi Arabia, after the companies they work for stopped paying them their wages.

For these two, not being paid for six months means incurring debts to sustain their family's daily needs, and sacrificing the P26,000 cash assistance given by the government to pay them off.

Gastanis admitted he is at a loss on how to find new employment. He does not have enough to allow him to look around.

But somehow, the repatriated workers may find some hope after Presidential Adviser on OFWs Sec. Abdullah Mama-o announced that their salaries and benefits will be given to them soon.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is giving this a high priority," said Mama-o.

"There was an assurance that the processing of all the claims of stranded Filipino workers will definitely be processed. There are also law firms to assess the processing of claims," he added.

While there is no specific timeframe given as to when the repatriated OFWs will receive their claims, Mama-o said "it will not be for a longer period of time."

Back wages of OFWs will cover the period until the time of their departure.

Mama-o said there are a total of 800,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia.