More President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo returned to Manila Thursday afternoon from a three-nation foreign trip, bringing along with her at least 119 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Saudi Arabia.
Mrs. Arroyo and her entourage arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) past 4 p.m., aboard a chartered Philippine Airlines flight.
The troubled OFWs, who were allowed to leave Saudi Arabia to return home, were thankful to Mrs. Arroyo for the chance to leave their host country.
It was not immediately clear exactly how many OFWs Mrs. Arroyo brought home.
A dzRH report said there were 122, while a Malacañang statement (www.news.ops.gov.ph) said there were 119 and the Department of Foreign Affairs (www.dfa.gov.ph) said there were 120.
Mrs. Arroyo, whose most recent foreign itinerary included Turkey, United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, did not give an arrival statement.
According to a radio dzRH report, the President immediately took a domestic flight for Iloilo where she was to have a regional media interview and meet with local government officials there.
The DFA, in a statement on its website, said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Esteban Conejos, Jr. welcomed Mrs. Arroyo and her party.
While in Riyadh, Mrs. Arroyo instructed Labor Secretary Marianito Roque to expedite the processing of the exit papers of the stranded OFWs so “they can have relief and be brought home as soon as possible."
She also instructed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to finalize the arrangements for their repatriation.
Mrs. Arroyo also ordered the facilitation of the exit papers of the remaining stranded Filipino workers who previously stayed under the Kandara bridge in Jeddah.
To date, 97 have already been repatriated by the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah.
Meanwhile, a separate report by dzBB radio's Tuesday Niu said the OFWs were brought to the OWWA in Manila.
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents were also sent to meet the OFWs to get details about the maltreatment they suffered from their employers.
The NBI agents also had instructions to have the OFWs identify who recruited them.
In the meantime, the OWWA will book the OFWs in hotels until their documents are fully processed.
The OFWs will be given fare money to return to their home provinces once their documents are completed.
The OWWA also said it is now doing the paper work for the return of some 200 Filipinos still living under the Kandara bridge in Jeddah. - GMANews.TV