DOLE bans OFW deployment anew in tense Bahrain

Published by rudy Date posted on March 17, 2011

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday again banned the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Bahrain following the growing political tension there.

In a memorandum, DOLE Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz ordered Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) administrator Carlos Cao Jr. to “immediately effect the deferment in the processing and deployment of all newly hired workers to Bahrain.”

Baldoz said the ban was in light of the new travel advisory issued Tuesday by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for Bahrain, which raised the travel alert from level 1 (heightened alertness) to level 2 (restriction of movements and voluntary repatriation). (See: DFA raises alert levels in Bahrain, Japan to ‘2’)

According to the memo, the ban does not cover returning workers, but they will be required to execute an affidavit indicating that “they know the security risk in the country but nevertheless voluntarily resume their employment in Bahrain.”

In a report by GMA News’ Kara David on “24 Oras”, the DFA also said it is sending a team to the Middle East country to monitor the situation of some 50,000 Filipinos there.

Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Corazon Yap-Bahjin, however, allayed fears in the same report that Filipinos have become the target of the escalating violence in the Kingdom, saying those who were reportedly injured in the street clashes were mostly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

“Itong state of emergency na dineclare ay hingi ng karamihan ng mamamayan ng Bahrain, sapagkat nagiging out of hand na itong mga protesters and they started to attack expats particularly Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and people from East Asia,” said Philippine Ambassador Corazon Yap-Bahjin in the “24 Oras” newscast.

(This declared state of emergency was demanded by the majority of Bahrain’s citizens, since the protesters were getting out of hand and they started to attack expatriates, particularly Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and people from East Asia.)

“So far ang mga Filipinos hindi nasasaktan,” she added. (So far the Filipinos have not been hurt.)

Bahrain’s king on Tuesday declared martial law in the kingdom, following violent clashes between government troops and protesters. (See: Bahrain declares martial law, violence flares anew)

Government forces cracked down on protesting Shiite Muslims using rubber bullets and tear gas, according to reports, as demonstrations which first erupted in February resumed and resulted in violence in the past days.

The Shiite Muslim minority, making up about 15% of Bahrain’s total population, is demanding the resignation of the Sunni royal family.

The tension heightened after Saudi Arabia sent at least 1,000 troops to Bahrain to support the government and help quell dissent there.

‘No Pinoy killed’

In a separate interview by GMA News Online, an OFW in Bahrain belied reports quoting her that a Filipina was killed by protesters as she tried to get out of a supermarket.

Saripa Imao, who has been working in Bahrain for 13 years now, told GMA News Online she has not received reports of Filipinos being injured or killed in protests, as the Filipino community there has been strictly following the Embassy’s advice against going out.

“Okay naman kami, ‘di kami pinapalabas ng amo namin. Kasi may mga gumagala na nakamaskara, may dalang kahoy at kutsilyo,” Imao said. (We’re okay. Our employer does not allow us to go out because there are masked people going around with wooden clubs and knives.)

Imao, who works as a supermarket employee, said she and some 10 other Filipino co-workers have not been able to go out of their accommodation in Exhibition Road for five days now for fear of being hurt in the mass actions.

Because of the increased tension, she added, streets become deserted while stores close at 5 p.m., even as the area is far from the center of protests.

“Sa ngayon, wala pa akong balak (umuwi). Wala pa naman kasing masyadong gulo dito sa lugar namin,” Imao said. (For now, I don’t have plans to go home. After all, there isn’t much violence going on here in our place.)

The situation of two other Filipina workers situated right at the center of protests in Manama, however, is less fortunate.

In an interview on “24 Oras”, OFWs Lorna Aparejado and Mary Jane Enonaria narrated how they witnessed foreigners being mauled by protesters right from the window of their house.

The two added they now have only two pieces of bread, as they are unable to leave their accommodation.

“Wala po kaming tiyak na pagkain, ‘di po kami makalabas kasi pag lumabas kami, papatayin kami. Andiyan po sila, nakabantay sa labas,” Enonaria said. (Our food supply is uncertain. We can’t go out because if we do, they’re going to kill us. They are there outside, just waiting.)

Enonaria did not give any reason why the protesters would want to hurt them.

The Philippine Embassy has said that they are now trying to reach the two to give assistance, according to the same report.

Figures from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas show there are some 50,000 Filipinos in Bahrain, an overwhelming majority of whom are workers while only 85 are listed as permanent residents.—JV, GMA News

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