Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert E.A. Borje, assisted by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sara Lou Arriola, conferred the Order of Sikatuna, Grand Cross (with Silver Distinction), on Ausamah Abdulla Al Absi, a Bahraini anti-human trafficking advocate who promoted migrant workers’ rights in Bahrain and across the globe.
PAFA Borje, who is also the Special Envoy to Saudi Arabia, conferred the decoration on Al Absi by order and authority of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who recognized Al Absi’s key role in strengthening Philippine-Bahrain bilateral relations through the “transformative advocacy on migrant workers rights protection.”
Among others, the citation for the award highlighted Mr. Al Absi, “For his inspired leadership of the Labor Market Regulatory Authority of the Kingdom of Bahrain, developing the organization into an institution championing the rights and welfare of migrant workers in the Kingdom, thereby dramatically transforming lives and upholding the human dignity of all workers, including thousands of Filipinos in the Kingdom.”
Al Absi, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) of the Kingdom of Bahrain, developed and institutionalized a regularization program for irregular overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Bahrain through the Flexi Permit Program.
As of December 31, 2020, a total of 1,075 Filipinos have benefitted from the program.
Al Absi also served as Deputy CEO for the Special Projects in the Economic Development Board and worked with the Bahraini government in launching the National Referral Mechanism for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which streamlines the identification of potential victims until the resolution of their cases and voluntary return to their home countries.
Also as chairman of Bahrain’s National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons (NCCTIP), Al Absi strived for the successful arrest, prosecution and incarceration of seven human traffickers who victimized Filipino nationals.
Under his tutelage, he led the NCCTIP in establishing a 200-bed shelter for human trafficking victims that remains a model for its standard of victim care.
Aside from combating human trafficking, Al Absi worked with the Philippines towards the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and had contributed significantly in initiating bilateral consultations, dialogues, meetings and high-level visits between the two countries, enhancing ties between the Philippines and Bahrain.
In his brief remarks after the conferment, Al Absi said he found the Philippines as a partner when he began reforming the Bahrain labor market. He described his experience with the Philippines as “ very rewarding” and expressed gratitude to President Duterte for the honour and recognition.
The Order of Sikatuna is the national order of diplomatic merit of the Philippines. It is conferred upon individuals who have rendered exceptional and meritorious services to the country, upon diplomats, officials and nationals of foreign states that have rendered conspicuous services in fostering, developing and strengthening relations between their country and the Philippines, and upon deserving personnel of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
It was established by President Elpidio Quirino in 1953 and subsequently reformed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003.
Other officials present were Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto, Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso Ver, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Enrico Fos, and PCOO Assistant Secretary for Global Media and Public Affairs Jusan Vincent Arcena.
Other guests include Bahraini Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Hmood bin Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Vice Chair of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking Sarah Al Tamimi, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) Deputy Minister Sattam Alharbi, and Saudi Arabia Ambassador designate to the Philippines Hisham Al-Qahtani. ###