Palace allows OFWs into Lebanon, Jordan
Despite the global crisis, more than 100,000 jobs in Qatar are available for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Labor department announced Wednesday after attending a meeting with Qatari labor officials last week.
In a separate announcement on Wednesday, the government also said it would lift the ban on sending Filipino workers to Lebanon and Jordan. The move is also expected to create new placement opportunities for Filipinos.
The Qatar government approved 296,787 work visas for OFWs between October 2008 and March 2009, said Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, adding that 190,000 positions have been filled up. That leaves more than 100,000 work visas still available for Filipino workers.
The openings were discussed in a meeting between Roque and his Qatari counterparts. The secretary said the primary purpose of the meeting was to strengthen bilateral labor relations, specifically the opening of more job opportunities in Qatar for Filipino workers.
“About 85 percent of the available jobs for OFWs in Qatar required technical and highly skilled workers in the construction sector,” he said in statement.
He added that the two countries also discussed the ratification of the Additional Protocol to the RP-Qatar Agreement Concerning Filipino Manpower Employment in Qatar that the Philippine government entered into in 1997 for the protection of the rights of Filipino workers in Qatar.
The two delegations also aim to address illegal recruitment agencies and excessive placement fees, mainly by sharing information between Manila and Doha, the capital of Qatar.
Roque also said the Labor department was looking at cooperating with the Qatari government in conducting training programs for OFWs in order to ensure “adequate supply of skilled workers for manpower requirements of employers in the [Arab] country.”
Part of the agreement is the Sponsorship Law in Qatar that would allow Filipino workers to transfer jobs if their employers physically abuse them or fail to pay them.
The law also says that OFWs who file a complaint in a Qatari labor court would not be sent back to the Philippines by his or her employer before claims are settled.
Lebanon and Jordan
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said also Wednesday that Malacañang gave the green light to the Department of Foreign Affairs to lift the ban on deploying Filipino workers to Lebanon and Jordan.
But he added that the deployment ban on Iraq, Nigeria and Afghanistan remains in effect, because of unstable security situations in those countries.
The government stopped sending Filipino workers to Lebanon in 2006 when fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants escalated.
When the ban was imposed, about 6,000 Filipino workers, most of them undocumented, were repatriated to the Philippines. But some 26,000 remained in Lebanon.
Many of those who remained were restrained by their employers from leaving, while others feared losing their jobs. There were also Filipinos married to Lebanese who opted to stay with their families.
The Philippines had also prevented OFWs from working in Lebanon because of poor labor conditions there.
“Our government wants to make sure the protection and welfare of the OFWs will be assured before we lift the deployment ban,” Secretary Roque said in an interview last week.
Last month, the presidential envoy to the Middle East, Roy Cimatu, was sent to Lebanon to assess the security situation there. He reported that it was safe again for Filipino to go there.
OFWs in France
Thierry Borja de Mozota, France’s ambassador to Manila, said late Tuesday that the estimated 40,000 OFWs in his country have so far been spared from layoffs resulting from the global financial turmoil.
Filipinos in France are mainly woman caregivers working for families, and those jobs are not at risk, he said. “At the moment, there is no sign of reduction of workers of families in France. They are not working for companies, so there is no reason for them to lose their jobs.”
He added that the Filipino community in France was appreciated for helping his country’s economy stay afloat.
Illegals a concern
The ambassador, however, was concerned about the growing number of undocumented Filipino workers in France—estimated at 33,000.
He called on the Philippine government to come up with a labor agreement with France that would allow Filipino workers in his country to obtain work permits.
“This agreement would give undocumented Filipino workers in France a chance to legalize their stay,” he explained. “This will ensure that Filipinos already in France will be provided an avenue to get working permit as soon as they ask for it.”
The European Parliament has adopted a program in June 2008 to allow its member-states to repatriate all undocumented workers. The European Union estimates that there are more than 90,000 undocumented Filipino workers in Europe, mostly working as household workers in Paris, Nice, Milan, Rome, Madrid and Barcelona.
Two years ago, the French government started negotiating a labor agreement with the Philippines that would allow healthcare professionals—like nurses and doctors—and those in the arts and fashion businesses to work in France. But the envoy added that they want a “return policy,” a provision compelling the Filipino workers to return to the Philippines after two to three years working in France so that they could bring home their knowledge and experience here.
But the program is not attracting much attention, because Filipinos do not speak French, and those who go often prefer to stay there, the envoy added.
— Bernice Camille V. Bauzon, Angelo S. Samonte And Llanesca T. Panti, Manila Times