Labor official says lifting of deployment ban of OFWs in some ME countries unwise

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A LABOR official said that the proposal to lift the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers in some parts of the Middle East may not be a wise decision at this time.

Labor Attaché Alejandro Padaen of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Lebanon said officials should first consult with people on the ground. “They should carefully study the situation in destination countries before policy pronouncements are made,” he said.

Abdullah Mama-o, newly appointed secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) is looking at lifting the suspension on the deployment of new hired skilled and household service workers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, including Libya and Iraq.

Padaen cited Lebanon, which is yet to recover from the political and economic turmoil it faced, and has yet to conclude an agreement on a standard contract, especially those covering domestic workers.

Considering the economic aspect, it may not be the right time yet to deploy new hires in Lebanon. Several companies have closed down and we have not been deploying household service workers since 2007,” said Padaen in a virtual media briefing last week.

The Balik-Manggagawa that we process are those who have relatives here and have come through informal channels. It will be better if we assess first and study the situation before we start deploying again,” he added.

In January 2020, the Department of Foreign Affairs has raised the Alert Level in Lebanon from 1 (Precautionary Phase) to 2 (Restriction Phase). Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) with existing employment contracts and are registered under the Balik Manggagawa Program are allowed return to Lebanon.

Accordingly, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 08 series of 2020, which suspends the processing and deployment of newly-hired workers bound for Lebanon, including crew changes, embarkation, disembarkation, and shore leaves for seafarers.

The official also suggested that the Standard Employment Contract for Domestic Workers should already be finalized, pending the agreement between the Philippine and Lebanese governments.

Padaen said that there are 17,000-19,000 Filipinos in Lebanon as of June 2021, but the numbers may be less now due to on-going repatriation efforts, where the latest batch of OFWs were repatriated last month.

Among the repatriates are OFW wards from the POLO shelter and most of whom complained of not receiving enough salaries or not getting them on time.

Meanwhile, Padaen said the POLO continues to process job orders for its other jurisdictions, such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Northern Cyprus.

He said the employment prospects in Turkey look favorable, especially when the COVID situation improves.

There is demand for household service workers (HSWs) in Turkey and the POLO has already accredited 11 foreign recruitment agencies for their deployment. The salary of an HSW is at USD$800 per month, almost double of those in other countries.

The POLO has also approved a job order for a large tuna factory in Turkey.

Meanwhile, Georgia and Azerbaijan are open for workers in the oil and gas sector and Northern Cyprus in the tourism sector.

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