DUBAI: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is currently visiting the UAE, said that there would be more than 200,000 new jobs for skilled and professional Filipinos in the Middle East and North Africa for this year alone, including 39,128 new opportunities in the UAE.
While talking with reporters after addressing a conference on employment that was held at the Renaissance Hotel in Deira, Dubai, Arroyo said the new job opportunities were created after Philippine labor officials and representatives of companies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, as well as managers of agencies involved in the recruitment and hiring of Filipino workers, signed an agreement to create new jobs despite the global economic crisis.
Arroyo and her team arrived in Dubai yesterday after cutting short their official trip in Thailand where anti-government protesters disrupted the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Pattaya on Saturday. UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi received Arroyo at the airport.
Earlier on Saturday, Vice President Noli de Castro assured nearly 100 Filipinas who spent weeks at a shelter after fleeing their employers that he would help them return home to their families, even if they could not be repatriated all at once.
“There is a process involved,” said De Castro, adding that he would personally follow up their requests for airline tickets and free legal assistance with the Philippine government.
De Castro is in the region to open a new embassy in Damascus next week and, in his capacity as presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers, made time for a brief visit to check on the conditions of the women sheltered at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Deira.
He asked the women why they ended up at the shelter and told them of the Philippine government’s determination to protect its migrant workers, particularly those who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Of the 96 occupants at the shelter, 38 women have had their visas cancelled. Their passports have been retrieved from their employers but they need air tickets to return home, according to Filipino labor officials in Dubai.
“Their problems are not unique,” De Castro said. “These are the common problems of our Filipino workers in the Middle East.”
He said that prior to his visit he was briefed by Filipino diplomats in the UAE about the common problems experienced by Filipino workers here.
These include contract substitution, mistreatment and the difficulties related to visa and residency status.
“You are not merely workers,” De Castro reminded the women. “You are ambassadors of your country when you are overseas.”