WATCH | DOLE eases deployment ban on Qatar, bars only OFWs still processing OECs

June 8, 2017 - 1:47 AM
InterAksyon file photo of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday partially lifted the suspension on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Qatar after receiving reports stating that the situation in the Arab country has normalized.

In an emergency press conference at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) main office in Mandaluyong City on Wednesday, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the changes in the suspension order were made upon the recommendation of the crisis committee based on updates from their Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Qatar.

Earlier on Wednesday, former labor undersecretary Susan “Toots” Ople, who runs a migrant advocacy center that tracks OFWs closely, had disagreed with the decision to halt deployment without first fully assessing the situation on the ground.

She counseled the Middle East OFWs – more than a million – to keep calm, but also hoped the Philippine government would plan and act in a more deliberative manner.

The knee-jerk reaction of full suspension has apparently eased, if Bello’s remarks late Wednesday were an indication: “Late last night I had a conversation with our labor attache based in Doha, Qatar and he informed that initially there were incidents of panic buying but after two or three hours the situation has normalized,” he said.

Bello added, “He informed me that as of 1 a.m. today (Wednesday), the situation in Qatar has normalized.”
But, he noted that the suspension will cover OFWs who are still processing their overseas employment certificates (OECs).

This will be in effect until the DOLE has completed its assessment of the situation in the Arab nation.
An OEC is a documentary requirement imposed by POEA to OFWs before they are allowed to work abroad.

Bello added that the committee, which he created to monitor the situation in the host country, also based its decision on the appeal from the recruitment industry, Qatari government and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for it to relax the deployment restriction.

“They decided to lift the temporary moratorium or suspension of OFWs in Qatar, particularly for balik-manggagawa and those with OEC (overseas employment certificate),” the Labor and Employment chief added.

With this, he reported that hourly monitoring is being conducted on the situation in the Middle East country to ensure the protection of the estimated 200,000 OFWs there.

Bello added that the Qatari government has already guaranteed the protection of Filipino workers under their jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, the DOLE suspended the deployment of OFWs to Qatar due to the impending food shortage brought about by the decision of several Arab countries to cut ties with the oil-rich state due to its activities that allegedly support terrorists.