West Zone, the hypermart chain working with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai on its food relief efforts for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), has suspended its participation in the program.
“We selflessly support the Filipino community in this crucial period but in return… Due to controversy we suspend this initiative until further notice,” Raju Gidwani, director of Shankar Trading Co. and the West Zone Group, said in an exclusive interview.
The matter stemmed from allegations raised the other day by an OFW, Joy Parafina, who went live on Facebook saying she has been told that the food packages were donations and not paid for by POLO.
Parafina also alleged that a welfare officer, Danilo Flores cussed at her when she called him up to ask about receipts.
Gidwani said the transaction with POLO was aboveboard.
“West Zone is providing free logistics and distribution support in this crucial time to the community,” Gidwani said.
“The entire food package cost was borne by OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administrarion which runs POLO) with the consulate of the Philippines in Dubai,” he added.
Gidwani said “everything was documented.”
He said West Zone has “provided all products to the consulate at cost without keeping any profit just to support Filipino community.”
Parafina, in her live video, said she went to West Zone and inquired about OWWA’s food assistance program. She said she was handed two bags of rice at 5 kilos each and a small box of groceries.
She said she was told by the staff that the food was a donation from the hypermart company. She added that she asked for a receipt but was told there was none.
Flores explained that it was not a donation but was actually paid for through the OWWA program under which 150 boxes were prepared – 50 for active OWWA members and 100 for inactive members.
He said OWWA has the receipts for the transaction to the amount of Dhs28,625.
“Hindi kasi kami makalabas dahil sa quarantine kaya naisip namin na bumili sa West Zone,” Flores said.
He also explained that per regulation, Dh200 was appropriated for active OWWA members and Dh300 for inactive ones for the relief packages.
“Transparent ito,” Flores said. “May resibo.”
Gidwani said he is “very disappointed with all this.”
He said there were 23 different products inside the relief package aside from the two bags of rice.
“Do you think it’s not sufficient food package at this moment? She gave a statement that it’s only rice and few snacks,” Gidwani said.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has put Flores on suspension and ordered a swift invstigation.
Flores denied he cussed at Parafina.