By Filane Mikee Cervantes

BUSINESS TRIP. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. descends from Philippine Airlines flight PR001 at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Saturday (Oct. 21, 2023). The President attended the inaugural Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, where he also forged USD4.2 billion worth of business agreements with Saudi firms and met with Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to address labor issues and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who pledged to set aside about 2 billion riyals for Filipino workers who were displaced after construction firms in Saudi Arabia went bankrupt. (PNA photo by Alfred Frias)

MANILA – Speaker Martin Romualdez on Monday said an estimated 220,000 job opportunities generated from President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s visit to Saudi Arabia shows the government’s commitment to uplift the lives of Filipino workers.

Romualdez said four landmark agreements inked by Saudi and Filipino firms during Marcos’ visit have created these prospective job opportunities to fill the growing demand for laborers in the kingdom as part of the Saudi Vision 2030.

Saudi Vision 2030 includes diversifying its economy away from oil, improving infrastructure, advancing digitalization, and creating competitive business environments.

“The successful visit of President Marcos to Saudi is a solid testament to the dedication of his administration in ensuring the well-being and improving the lot of Filipino workers, through enhancement of the long-standing friendship and diplomatic ties between the two nations,” Romualdez said in a statement.

Romualdez said the visit also reaffirms the administration’s commitment to support and protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

He pointed out that President Marcos’ high-level discussions with Saudi officials involved issues of better job security and improved working conditions for OFWs in the kingdom.

“At ‘yan po ang naging bahagi sa ating pagpunta rito ay para kausapin ulit ang ating mga kaibigan dito sa Saudi Arabia, hindi lamang sa Saudi Arabia, kung hindi dito sa Middle East upang tiyakin na ang kalagayan naman ng ating mga mamamayan, ng ating mga Pilipino ay nasa mabuti. At kung may problema man ay pinag-usapan natin at kaya po nating ayusin (Part of our trip is to be able to talk again to our friends here in Saudi Arabia–not just in Saudi Arabia, but also in the Middle East– in order to ensure the welfare of Filipinos. And if there is any problem, we talk and resolve it),” Marcos said.

Topping the four agreements is the USD3.765 billion deal between Al-Jeer Human Resources Company (ARCO) and the Association of Philippine Licensed Agencies for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to cooperate in terms of investments that would employ Filipino workers in the kingdom.

The agreement is expected to generate more than 200,000 jobs.

Another deal is between Al Rushaid Petroleum Investment Company & Samsung Engineering NEC Co. Ltd., on the one hand, and Filipino firm EEI Corporation valued at USD120 million for the establishment of a 500-person training facility in the Tanza, Cavite, Philippines.

It aims to train at least 2,000 Filipinos starting in 2024 and more than 15,000 in the next five years, particularly for skills in masonry, carpentry, electrical, welding, equipment management, warehousing, steel fabrication, and other construction-related crafts.

Likewise signed were two separate agreements between Maharah Human Resources Company of Saudi and Filipino firms Staffhouse International Resources Corporation and E-GMP International Corporation, each valued at an estimated USD191 million.

Both agreements aim to bring 10,000 Filipino workers to the kingdom each year until 2030.

Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) president and Deputy Speaker Raymond Democrito Mendoza lauded Marcos’ “fruitful” trip and ensured that the primary issues faced by OFWs were fully addressed.

“This includes settling the unpaid wages of more than 10,000 OFWs in Saudi and ending Kuwait’s suspension of the issuance of entry and work visas to Filipinos. Thanks to the President’s meetings with the Saudi and Kuwait monarchs, we can look forward to brighter days and better treatment of our workers without fear of abuse and harassment,” Mendoza said. (with a report from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)