OFWs in Bahrain to be repatriated

Published by rudy Date posted on March 17, 2011

MANILA, Philippines –  Malacañang said yesterday it would repatriate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Bahrain who may want to go home, but will not yet resort to forced evacuation and repatriation despite the declaration of martial law in that country.

Violence in Bahrain escalated anew after the Kingdom’s besieged monarch declared martial law and ordered troops –including Saudi forces – to take all measures to quell a festering rebellion.

The clashes had been anticipated since more than 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States arrived in Bahrain on Sunday, after being invited by the ruling dynasty to help restore order.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) assessment was that an alert level two could be raised, meaning voluntary departure.

“What would that mean? That would mean that the Filipino (overseas worker) would have to pay for his expense going back home, however, the travel documents will be facilitated by the embassy in Bahrain,” Lacierda said.

He said the DFA was monitoring the situation and “if there’s a necessity to change the assessment, then they will do so.”

He confirmed that the Palace would discuss whether to re-impose the deployment ban to Bahrain considering that it was just lifted recently, following reports that the situation there had normalized.

Though viewing it with concern, Lacierda explained the government would withhold any political comments as regards the martial law declaration because like any situation in the Middle East, the country’s paramount concern would be the safety and welfare of the OFWs.

“We don’t know yet the impact on Filipino citizens there. As in all the situations in the Middle Eastern countries, there is always an advisory to Filipinos not to participate in any civil unrest in the Middle East countries. So I think that would still be our policy. We will monitor the situation there in relation to the safety of the Filipinos,” he said.

Lacierda said the DFA had been effective in monitoring developments in the Middle East, particularly Libya.

He noted that the government is preparing for the employment of the OFWs to be repatriated by offering trainings and alternative livelihood programs.

Better in tense Bahrain than home jobless

For many Filipino workers in Bahrain, it is better to be caught in the escalating tension rather than return home jobless.

Labor group Migrante Middle East said many OFWs in Bahrain are reluctant to abandon their high-paying jobs there.

“The Aquino government must seriously focus on local jobs creation, jobs that offer decent pay and fair employment package so that OFWs will be encouraged to work back in the homeland,” said John Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional director.

The other day, the DFA issued an advisory to OFWs in Bahrain to restrict their movements after troops from neighboring United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia moved in to quell anti-government protests.

The DFA has raised the alert level in Bahrain to level two. Because of the prevailing hostilities, the government once again imposed a deployment ban to the Middle East country.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to defer the processing of documents for workers bound for Bahrain. The ban, however, would not cover those vacationing from their jobs.

“Returning workers will be allowed to travel back to Bahrain provided they execute an affidavit that they know the security risk in the country but nevertheless voluntarily resume employment in Bahrain,” said Baldoz.
Just last week, the POEA lifted the deployment ban after the peace and order situation there improved. –Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) with Mayen Jaymalin

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