Philippines to query Saudis on maids ‘ban’

Manila, July 01: The Philippines is to ask for clarification from Saudi Arabia after it announced it would stop granting work permits for Filipino domestic staff, President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman said.

Philippines officials will also look for other markets for workers in the event that the freeze, announced in Riyadh on Wednesday, is put into full effect, Aquino spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a news conference.

Saudi authorities announced the new policy, which also affects maids from Indonesia, after failing to agree on hiring conditions imposed by the Asian countries.

Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz “is sending a labour attache to Saudi Arabia to verify these things”, Lacierda said.

Some 1.3 million Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia, a key market for the nine million-strong overseas-based Filipino work force.

There had been rising concern in Manila that the dispute could impact on the economy of the Philippines, where a fifth of the workforce is jobless or looking for more work.

“There are other countries that would be ready to absorb those that cannot be accommodated by Saudi Arabia, so the Secretary of Labour already anticipated that,” Lacierda said.

However he declined to provide details, saying Baldoz was set to issue a formal statement later Thursday.

The Aquino government had its demand for higher pay and greater protection for its women workers turned down by Saudi Arabia in May.

Rights groups say millions of mostly Asian domestic workers are regularly exposed to physical and financial abuse in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states due to poor or non-existent labour laws.