JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Inspired by the warm response to their outreach overseas absentee voting (OAV) campaign in the city of Yanbu, Philippine officials in western Saudi Arabia have scheduled a series of voter registration in Filipino schools in Jeddah.
The OAV Mobile Team of the Philippine Consulate General said registration will be held at the Al-Hekma International School from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday (July 30).
On August 7, registration will be held at the International Philippine School in Jeddah (IPSJ), followed by another one at the Pearl of the Orient International School (POIS) on August 14.
Registration will also continue at the consulate every day from 8:30 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. until August 31, when the OAV registration ends.
All that is needed by an applicant to present when registering is a copy of his or her passport or any other documents proving one’s identity.
As the registration deadline neared, Consul General Ezzedin Tago appealed on Filipinos 18 years old and above in the region to sign up so that they can participate in the selection of the Philippines’ next national leaders next year.
Saudi Arabia has the biggest number of OFWs worldwide but very few have registered since the OAV list-up started in February because of the far distances between their place of work and centers where the registration are allowed.
The registration centers are the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the Consulate General in Jeddah, and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Al Khobar.
However, the Saudi government allows registration activities to be held in Philippine schools.
Elsa Masa, a member of the OAV team, told GMANews.TV that their campaign in Yanbu was held at the Al-Tawhid International School, generating more than 500 registrants in two days. Likewise, 223 new voters were added in Khamis Mushayt.
In a letter sent to the Filipino community, Tago owed the success of this month’s registration to the kind efforts of employers like the International Medical Center (IMC), who not only permitted their migrant workers to come and register but also provided transportation service to them.
Tago also noted that civic-minded organizations like the United Filipino Muslims for Peace and Development (UFMPAD) and the “Pinoy sa Jeddah" Internet group have also been instrumental in this regard as they campaigned hard for them to register and vote.
With three more local field registrations scheduled to be held in the Philippine Curriculum schools in Jeddah, the consulate general expects a further increase in the number of registrants in the final stretch of the registration period.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec), meanwhile, urged Filipinos in other places in the Middle East to register as overseas voters for the 2010 elections.
More than two million Filipinos live and work in the Middle East but less than 27,000 Filipinos have so far registered in the oil-rich region.
The government has set a target of one million OAV registrants out of an estimated eight million Filipinos abroad. As of July 29, only 154,402 overseas Filipino voters have registered, according to the OAV Secretariat of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
This number has surpassed the combined number of registrants for 2005-2006, which was 142,667. - Ronaldo Concha and Joseph Hollandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV