Senators concerned over safety, job security of OFWs in Middle East
Above is a photo of the Abu Dhabi skyline. Data from the DFA as of December 2017 showed that more than 600,000 Filipinos live in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Wikimedia Commons/BDS2006

Senators concerned over safety, job security of OFWs in Middle East

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - January 6, 2020 - 12:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — Amid rising tensions in the Middle East, a number of Senate lawmakers on Monday sounded off to urge the government to protect both the safety and job security of OFWs in the region.

Sen. Bong Go assured the public that the situation was being closely monitored.  

"Patuloy nating minamanmanan ang sitwasyon sa Middle East, lalo na sa Iran. Nasa interes ng Pilipinas na panatilihin ang peace and stability in the region. Our concern clearly is on the safety and security of Filipinos in that country and the region," he said in a statement

(We are monitoring the situation in the Middle East, especially in Iran, closely. It is in the Philippines' interest that peace and stability is maintained in the region.)

This follows the killing by a US drone strike of one of Iran's top commanders in an airstrike on an airport in Baghdad in Iraq. 

Iran has vowed to retaliate against the United States and its allies.

Sen. Imee Marcos meanwhile cautioned that the safety risks the recent bombing pose extend beyond the borders of Iraq and Iran. 

READ: Philippines readies OFW evacuation

"Sa anumang gagawing hakbang ng ating pamahalaan, hindi ito dapat nakasentro lang sa Iran at Iraq. Mas dapat natin bigyang pansin ang magiging kaligtasan ng milyon nating kababayang OFWs sa buong Middle East," Marcos said.

(Whatever step our government takes, this shouldn't be centered only on Iran and Iraq. We should also pay attention to what might happen to the safety of our millions of OFWs in the entire Middle East.) 

Millions of Filipinos have headed to the Middle East to seek work.

According to the World Bank in 2008, Filipinos made up the fourth-largest group of foreigners in Saudi Arabia, while the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority said that one in four OFWs worked in Saudi Arabia, while 15% of OFWs worked in the United Arab Emirates. 5.7% worked in Kuwait while 5.2% were in Qatar. 

In total, the PSA said, there were an estimated 2.3 million OFWs working abroad. More than half of them were women. 

"Nakaamba ngayon ang mga retaliatory attacks sa mga lugar kung saan naroroon at malakas ang pwersa ng Estados Unidos, at ang masaklap nito, naroroon din sa mga bansang iyon ang libo-libo nating mga OFWs," Marcos added.

'Displaced laborers can work in local construction projects'

For her part, Sen. Cynthia Villar suggested providing the displaced with basic construction work through the Villar Social Institute For Poverty Alleviation and Governance.

"There is a huge shortage of skilled workers in the construction sector, [and] it can prioritize affected OFWs," she said in a separate statement calling for the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Agriculture to provide alternative opportunities for returning OFWs. 

This was "so they no longer feel compelled to leave the country for the Middle East as household service workers," she said, after the imposition of the resulting deployment ban in Kuwait.

Labor groups, too, called for extra attention on the potential effects the circumstances could have on the opportunities of OFWs. 

READ: Labor group wants fuel tax hike suspended amid US-Iran tension

The official count by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration documents 679 OFWs in Iran, but labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino expressed concern on Sunday that there could be many more undocumented ones in the region. 

Filipinos residing in the area have also been told to brace for mandatory evacuation.  

The Philippine Embassy may be contacted at (+964) 781-606-6822; (+964) 751-616-7838; and (+964) 751-876-4665 or via email: baghdad.pe@dfa.gov.ph; and/or via Facebook page: Philippine Embassy in Iraq. 

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