Vice President pushes for selective ban on overseas workers

Published by rudy Date posted on February 7, 2009

Vice President Noli de Castro proposed yesterday to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment to implement a selective deployment ban in Iraq, Lebanon and Nigeria.

De Castro made the proposal during a meeting with DFA officials led by Ambassador Roy Cimatu, head of the Middle East Preparedness Team, before his group leaves for the three countries for assessment security mission.

He said the security situation in the three countries would be reviewed to determine if the deployment of overseas Filipino workers will be safe.

“What I proposed to the DFA and DOLE was a selective ban on these countries. We only seek to lift the ban in areas where there are concentration of work activities, while those areas considered still high risk, the deployment ban shall remain,” De Castro said.

He said there are areas as centers of economic activities in the three countries and where the security situation was reported to have normalized.

Aside from Iraq, Lebanon and Nigeria, the government also imposed a ban in the deployment of workers in Jordan and Afghanistan.

The Vice President met last month with the Iraqi delegation led by the Minister of Construction and Housing Beyan Ismail Dezei who visited Manila. The Iraqi official said over 10 million new jobs are available in Iraq for post-war rehabilitation projects.

“We seek to lift the deployment ban on these countries in order to widen our overseas employment market in the light of the global economic crisis.

But the safety and welfare of our OFWs outweigh the economic effects that is why the decision of lifting the ban will be carefully studied,” De Castro said. He also said Iraq’s need for foreign workers may open opportunities for OFWs but it will depend on the security assessment of the DFA.

The DFA was supposed to release the latest security assessment in December.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said he had also requested the DFA to assess the security situation in Iraq because of the improvement in the situation in that country. Roque said there is already a shortage of 30,000 construction workers in Iraq.

Security assessment

“Our request to the DFA is to give us security assessment to see if it’s safe,” Roque said.

He said the government is not likely to immediately lift the ban on the deployment of its citizens to Iraq. Roque and his Iraqi counterpart had discussed the government’s deployment ban during the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development in Manila and Iraq in October and the Iraqi official asked for the lifting of the ban.

He said that another factor to be considered in lifting the ban is the new policy under the administration of US President Barack Obama on the US forces and US military camps in Iraq where around 10,000 undocumented Filipino workers are employed.

Iraq said it needs 10 million foreign workers mostly for reconstruction and infrastructure projects to begin this year in northern Iraq as it expressed optimism that the Philippine government will finally lift the deployment ban to allow Filipino workers to work there.

Charge d’Affaires Adel Mawlood Hamoudi Al-Hakimh, of the Iraqi Embassy, said in an interview that Iraq needs the Filipino workers’ help and experience for reconstruction and infrastructure projects with a $19-million fund from the Iraqi government.

UNO rejects plan

In related developments, the United Opposition opposed yesterday the Arroyo administration’s plan to lift the ban on sending of Filipino workers in Iraq.

UNO spokesman Adel Tamano said war-torn Iraq still pose danger to Filipinos. Tamano said the government’s plan to lift the ban on sending Filipino workers in Iraq was a misguided effort by Malacañang to mask its failure to provide viable jobs and livelihood opportunities in the country.

“We cannot blame our fellow Filipinos to bite the bullet and risk their lives in a foreign land to earn a living, the Arroyo administration has utterly failed to wean away the economy’s dependence on overseas employment,” Tamano said.

Tamano said the country loses professionals to foreign countries due to unabated corruption in the country. “Everyday we are losing professionals to foreign countries because unabated corruption and criminality in the country has made earning a living here virtually impossible for our countrymen. A basic function of government is to protect its citizens and provide means for their survival, by this benchmark the Arroyo administration has only failing grades,” Tamano said.

Tamano cited that Labor officials earlier announced an exploratory mission which will include officials of the DOLE and the DFA.   – Pia Lee-Brago with Jose Rodel Clapano, Philippine Star

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