DOLE urged to lift suspension of OFW deployment to Qatar
MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker representing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to lift what he called the "premature" suspension of the deployment of workers to Qatar.
ACTS-OFW Representative Aniceto Bertiz III said on Wednesday, June 7, that the government decision was made ahead of the formal assessment of both the DOLE and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the situation in Qatar.
Bertiz said while he fully supports Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in looking after the "best interests" of Filipino workers, he disagreed with him on the deployment suspension especially on those who already signed contracts with their Qatari employers.
"I shall continue to urge him to lift the suspension order to allow OFWs with approved contracts to leave for Qatar because there are employers depending on them," he said.
"We have yet to hear of any clamor from our workers in Qatar for immediate repatriation. Based on my own personal consultations with our workers in Doha, they are determined to stay put and continue working for their employers,” Bertiz added.
The Philippine government had ordered the deployment suspension on Tuesday, after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Qatar is accused of supporting terrorist activities, which it denied.
Bello explained that the deployment ban intends to protect workers from the expected problems that may arise from the diplomatic row. One particular scenario is a food shortage in Qatar since the oil-rich nation does not produce its own food. (FAST FACTS: How big is the Filipino community in Qatar?)
The suspension also covers OFWs whose papers are being processed and those who are ready for deployment.
Effects on OFWs
Jun Aguilar, chairman of the Filipino Migrants Workers Group, said that the ones to be affected the most by the suspension order are those who are set to leave for Qatar.
Aguilar said most of these workers had resigned from their previous employment and would be left jobless if the ban continues.
He said his group supports government efforts to take care of OFWs but the government should look at other "angles that can be overlooked and neglected."
Aguilar noted that these Qatar-bound workers have spent a minimum of P10,000 to process their requirements. He recommended a program for the affected workers for the duration of the deployment suspension.
Aguilar also noted that Qatar is hosting the Football International Federation Association (FIFA) World Cup in 2022 so there are infrastructure projects there where many Filipino workers are employed.
Bertiz, meanwhile, stressed the need to appoint a head of the Middle East Preparedness Team (MEPT) "who understands the history, culture and policies of the different Gulf states."
"The President also needs to designate a new POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) administrator considering the current crisis that involves labor mobility and integrity of employment contracts,” he added.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu headed the MEPT during the Arroyo administration. The POEA is currently headed by Deputy Administrator Aristodes Ruaro, who was designated officer-in-charge after the former chief, Hans Leo Cacdac, was named as chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
DOLE estimates that there are around 245,000 OFWs in Qatar, mostly semi-skilled workers.
Most of the workers there are in the services and healthcare sectors. There is also a significant number of engineers and technicians in the country, said Labor Assistant Secretary Joji Aragon. – Rappler.com