Top DOLE Execs Mideast-Bound For Possible Repatriation Of OFWs

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The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will send teams to the Middle East to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for their repatriation due to the escalating tension in the region.

In a press briefing, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said three top labor officials are set to fly to their assigned destinations to help in the possible repatriation of Filipino workers.

“I’m sending my senior officials Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Kuwait, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard Olalia to Lebanon and Undersecretary Claro Arellano to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The purpose is for them to already inform OFWs in these areas about the tense situation because of the United States (US) and Iran tension,” he said.

The three top labor officials will fly to the region together with a Rapid Response Team (RRT) to inform OFWs of the situation as well as the actions of DOLE and other concerned government agencies to ensure safe repatriation.

He said the RRT will encourage the OFWs to avail of repatriation.

“We will ask them to join the repatriation efforts, however, if they do not cooperate, then we can no longer do anything about it. We will also get in touch with their employers to let our OFWs come home,” he said.

At the same time, the DOLE chief said alternative overseas and local employment are being readied for affected workers following the rising tension between the two countries.

Also on Wednesday, Bello met with officials of the Department of Justice, Department of National Defense, National Security Advisers, NICA, and with the Mindanao Development Authority to discuss the situation of the Filipino workers in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and other neighboring countries affected by the tension.

He said at the moment, no OFW has expressed willingness, nor have communicated with the DOLE, to ask for repatriation assistance from the government.

“As of now, we have not received any request from our OFWs that they want to go home. Only their families have contacted us to check on their situation and for updates on the said countries,” Bello added.

Repatriated Filipinos will be provided with livelihood assistance, offered with training under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and will be encouraged to apply for other overseas job markets such as Russia, Japan, and Canada.

On the other hand, Cacdac said aside from the PHP100-million repatriation fund, the labor department has a PHP500 million stand-by fund for crisis and emergency situations which can be utilized immediately.

Records show that an estimated number of 2,174,611 Filipinos, documented and undocumented, are in the Middle East including Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, and Israel.

There are an estimated 2,191 Filipinos in Iraq and 1,184 in Iran.

Also, OFWs on these Arab countries and their families are advised to call Hotline 1348 and 1349 of the labor department should they need repatriation or any forms of assistance from the government.

Meanwhile, Olalia said the POEA is set to declare a total deployment ban to Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon.

“Doon sa may Alert Level 4…the POEA will convene this Friday to issue the appropriate Governing Board Resolution declaring a total deployment ban. Ibig sabihin, hindi na tayo payag na mag-deploy pa ng OFWs papunta (we will not allow deployment of OFWs to) Iran, Iraq and Lebanon,” the POEA chief said. (PNA)

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