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Is Saudi Arabia Punishing the Philippines for Attempting to Protect its Migrant Workers?

On March 29, 2011

Saudi Arabia has informed the Philippine government that it will stop hiring domestic workers from that country. The move by Saudi Arabia follows the passing of a new law in the Philippines that requires the Philippine government to ensure that all countries Filipinos are deployed to protect migrant workers' rights.

On March 12, the Saudi foreign ministry informed the Philippine embassy in Riyadh that it will stop processing the employment contracts of Filipino domestic workers until further notice. Following the amendment of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, the Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) must certify that countries to which Filipino workers are deployed protect migrant workers' rights. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) then needs to approve this certification. The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued the certification for Saudi Arabia, showing it clearly prefers the remittances Filipino workers send from Saudi Arabia over their citizens' safety. However, the POEA is yet to approve this certification and it is asking for "further clarifications", especially about whether domestic workers' safety is included in the DFA certification. A Philippine labor officials told the Philippine's Inquirer that "the Saudi ban might have been caused by the need for DFA certification on rights protection."