While their countrymen dined on lavish Christmas meals, seven Filipino welders, who recently lost their jobs, begged for food at the Corniche and Fish Market here in order to have something to eat.
They are among the 23 foreign workers who were laid-off when the construction company they were working for closed shop about four months ago.
Instead of going home, they decided to stay and fight for their salaries equivalent to four months which the company failed to give them. Their case is being heard by a local labor court.
Willy Catian, a 39-year-old welder, said that in order to survive, they had to beg for money and even food from compatriots who pass by Corniche, an area which is like Baywalk on Roxas Boulevard, Manila.
“Whenever we can solicit at least 50 Qatari riyals (P650) or 100 Qatari riyals from our kabayan (countrymen) we run to the supermarket and buy rice,” Catian said.
He said aside from asking money from kind-hearted individuals, they also scavenge for shrimp heads at the Fish Market here before sellers throw them away.
Catian said they would share the food they got from begging and scavenging in their cramped makeshift quarters in Wakra, where all seven of them live.
They do not have electricity but they are able to fetch water from a nearby mosque courtesy of compassionate worshipers.
Another welder, Joselito Mañalac, said it has been four months since they last sent money to their families back home.
Already, an online community of Filipino expatriates living in Qatar started a fund-raising drive for them.
In contrast, Catian said an official of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) here allegedly failed to help when they asked for an Arabic interpreter to assist them in their labor case.
The official, identified as Hector Cruz, allegedly told Catian: “I don’t care if you win the case or not, what is important is that I can work for your immediate deportation.”
Migrante International said Cruz’s attitude contradicted President Macapagal-Arroyo’s assurances that overseas Filipino workers can go to the POLO if they have problems. The president gave this statement during a dinner with Filipino community leaders at the Doha Sheraton hotel here.
“He (Cruz) is being paid with taxpayers’ hard-earned money and this is what he does in return? He should not be in that position,” said Jhon de Jesus, Migrante’s coordinator here.
Vivo Vidal, POLO chief here, said they would have to wait for the final decision of the labor court before they can extend assistance to the displaced Filipino workers.
“Once there is a decision in favor of the workers, that’s the time we can take action,” Vidal said.