70 striking Filipino workers in Madagascar await repatriation

Published by rudy Date posted on January 4, 2011

At least 70 Filipino workers in Madagascar are currently stranded and awaiting repatriation to the Philippines after staging a strike against their employer for nonpayment of wages and other contract violations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it has instructed the Philippine Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, to look after the welfare of the Filipinos who went on strike against Kentz Engineering and Constructions and to ensure that their concerns are resolved.

“The Filipinos working in the Ambatovy Mining site in Tamatave, Madagascar, went on strike two weeks ago over delayed payment of salaries, non-payment of overtime pay, unsuitable and overcrowded accommodations, among others,” the DFA said.

The strikes have already ceased, it added.

Earlier, 15 Filipinos who requested repatriation, left for Manila last Dec. 20, while 70 others are in a hotel in Antananarivo, Madagascar waiting to be repatriated.

The embassy has called the attention of the Kentz Engineering and Construction to the complaints of the Filipinos and urged it to address the problem promptly, and to give priority to the repatriation of the 70 workers.

An embassy report said the company assured the government that it is doing its utmost to repatriate the Filipinos at the soonest time possible.

Kentz engineering explained that there was a delay in their repatriation due to some difficulty in securing available flights during the recent holiday rush.

The DFA said the embassy is also in constant touch with the representatives of the workers and the Philippine Society of Madagascar, which is also helping the government assist the workers.

“The DFA-Office of Migrant Workers Affairs is likewise coordinating with the Filipinos’ placement agencies in Manila to facilitate assistance to the workers and to ensure that their rights are respected,” it said.

In view of the difficulties encountered at the Ambatovy project, the embassy will dispatch a consular

team to Madagascar, the DFA said.

In October 2010, two embassy officials visited the Ambatovy worksite. At that time, there were no complaints about working and living conditions yet, the DFA said.

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Philippine embassy there said a Filipino worker was jailed for smuggling out 150 kilos of bronze scrap metal from his company compound.

Embassy Third Secretary and Vice Consul Roussel Reyes said two Philippine consular representatives visited the Filipino at the Azizia Police Station.

They were informed by authorities that the case against him was withdrawn by his company since the scrap metal was already returned to the company, Reyes said.

Saudi police said the company owner signed the tanazul or letter of forgiveness executed by the Filipino.

“The OFW may be repatriated already, as he was already issued an exit visa by his employer and only have to reconfirm his flight details,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, two Filipino sailors were among the 27 crewmen of the Greek-owned cargo vessel seized by ransom-seeking Somali pirates over the weekend, the DFA said Monday.

The names of the seafarers were not disclosed but the DFA said their families have already been informed of the incident.

The latest hijacking incident brings to 109 the number of Filipino seafarers on board 10 vessels taken hostage by pirates in Somalia.

In a report to the DFA, Philippine Naval Liaison in the Combined Marine Forces Capt. Gaudencio Collado Jr. said the vessel was seized approximately 150 nautical miles southeast of the port of Salalah in Oman en route to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

“The DFA continues to coordinate closely with the concerned Philippine embassies, the vessels’ principals and the local manning agencies for the early and safe release of the seafarers,” the department said.

As a policy, the Philippine government does not negotiate nor pay ransom to kidnappers, but gives ship owners the free hand in negotiating for the release of abducted Filipino sailors. In the past, millions of dollars worth of ransom were believed to have been paid by shipowners to Somali pirates in exchange for the release of abducted sailors and hijacked vessels. –Michaela P. del Callar, Daily Tribune

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