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Coronavirus

Philippines Ends Ban on Workers’ Travel to Saudi

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has lifted a ban on the deployment of workers to Saudi Arabia, which it imposed after receiving reports that workers were being asked to shoulder COVID-19 test and quarantine costs in the oil-rich kingdom.

Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that after Saudi Arabia formally notified his country Saturday that recruitment agencies and Saudi employers would bear the costs of tests and 10 days of quarantine for Filipinos, he decided to lift the ban.

The ban, which Bello imposed Thursday, prevented more than 400 Filipino workers from boarding their Philippine Airlines flights for Saudi Arabia on Friday. Many were stranded at the Manila airport, with some begging in tears for the government to immediately lift the ban.

“I apologize for the inconvenience and momentary anguish that it may have caused our dear overseas Filipino workers,” Bello said, but added “our Saudi-bound workers will no longer be disadvantaged.”

The Philippines is a leading source of global labor. Its regulations require recruitment agencies and foreign employers to cover the costs of COVID-19 tests and quarantines, which would be a financial burden to the mostly poor workers.

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