OFWs fear losing jobs, facing jail over grounded flights

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2018 11:28 AM | Updated as of Aug 19 2018 04:07 PM

Some suffer dizziness, nosebleed 

MANILA - (3rd UPDATE) Scores of overseas Filipino workers on Sunday feared losing their jobs or facing jail time for failing to return to their employers on time as dozens of flights in the country's main airport remained grounded after the closure of its main runway.

A Chinese airplane skidded off the runway and ripped off its left engine on late Thursday, blocking off the runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport until Saturday noon. At least 51 flights remained cancelled the day after due to "excessive delays," officials said.

Several OFWs shared they were uncertain if they can still return to their jobs abroad as they were supposed to leave the country last Friday.

"Makakarating kami ng destination pero mawawalan kami ng trabaho," said Raffy de Roxas, who works in Italy with his wife.

(We will eventually reach our destination, but we would have no more jobs.)

One OFW at NAIA's Gate 15 added that he could face jail time if he fails to return to Saudi before his exit visa expires on Monday.

"Walang ginagawang aksyon [ang mga awtoridad], puro palit ng boarding pass. Pupunta kami sa Immigration, walang nangyayari. Halos wala pa kaming tulog," the OFW who requested not to be named told radio DZMM.

(The authorities are not doing anything, they just keep on replacing our boarding pass. We would go to the Immigration, but nothing happens. We have had almost no sleep.)

"Ayokong abutan ng exit visa, makukulong ako doon sa Saudi Arabia dahil wala akong visa," he added.

(I don't want to still be here when my exit visa expires, I will be jailed there in Saudi Arabia because I don't have a visa.)

Marry Ann Barro, a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia, echoed this concern, noting that OFWs may find it difficult to renew their visas because Islam's annual Hajj pilgrimage has started.

"Sabi ng agency namin kailangan makalipad talaga kami... kasi mga employer namin galit na galit na doon. Naghihintay na sila doon, dapat susunduin na kami,” she told ABS-CBN News

(Our agency told us that we need to depart already because our employers are enraged. They have been waiting to fetch us.)

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Other OFWs complained that no official had approached to give them updates on where they could board their flights.

They also said they were only given water and mamon (sponge cake) to ward off their hunger.

Some elderly travelers at Terminal 1 also suffered dizziness and requested wheelchairs amid the flight delays. One passenger also suffered a nosebleed.

AN APPEAL TO AIRLINES

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Manila International Airport Authority general manager Ed Monreal urged airlines to directly give updates to OFWs and issue certificates explaining why their flights were delayed.

"I'm sure employers will be kind enough to accept that kind that kind of reasoning na hindi naman po kasalanan ng ating mga kababayan (that it's not the fault of their countrymen)," he said in a DZMM interview.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration officials, he added, were on their way to the airport.

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Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, meanwhile, urged OFWs to relay all their concerns to his agency's assistance center at the airport.

"I have given instructions to provide all the assistance needed by our OFWs, lalong-lalo na doon sa issue na mag-e-expire daw iyung kanilang visa (especially on the issue of expiring visas)," he told DZMM.

Personnel at the assistance center declined to appear before cameras, but said they are prioritizing assistance for those whose visas are expiring soon.

Officials earlier said moving the Xiamen Airlines plane was complicated by heavy rains that softened the ground, making it difficult to install the 2 cranes needed to lift the aircraft.

Investigators had recovered the plane's black box and flight data recorder and would be summoning the pilots next week to find the cause of the mishap, said Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesman Eric Apolonio.

With reports from Raoul Esperas and Henry Atuelan, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse