MANILA-- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday ordered the suspension of the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Qatar stressing that it would be assessing the situation in the Middle Eastern country.
"Effective today (Tuesday) we have ordered the suspension of deployment of OFW in Qatar. This is for us to assess the situation because there are so many wild rumors going around," said DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III in a press conference held at the agency's main office in Intramuros, Manila.
"Kasi we are foreseeing and possible problem in Qatar. Like for example we know for a fact Qatar does not produce it own food. If anything happens and they ran out of food and food riots take place definitely our OFWs will be the first victims. Kaya kailangan lang may preparatory measures to meet the possible exigency," he added.
At the same time, he denied rumors of food riots in the Middle Eastern nation.
"Although late last night and early this morning I was able to talk to our labor attache Dec Dicang and he informed me that there are no food riots yet as rumors being spread around. Although I told him that as a preparatory measure we should advice our OFWs in Qatar and our POLO (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) to start making stock of food provisions especially does not have much food production," Bello said.
He noted that those who are covered by the suspension are newly-hired and returning Filipino workers.
"We stopped all processing and even those who were scheduled to go. Sorry but we have to suspend first the deployment," the DOLE chief explained.
Bello added, "Even those who are ready to go we have to temporary suspend for their own protection because we have to assess the situation first before we could allow again the deployment of our migrant workers. This is for their own protection."
With this, he asked the local recruitment companies to coordinate with their counterparts in the Arab state to ensure that the Filipino workers will be protected in case something happens there.
"We would like to inform you that we informed our recruitment agencies for get in touch with their counter parts in Qatar to see to it that our migrant workers are sufficiently protected if anything goes wrong in that country," Bello said.
Based on DOLE figures as of last year, there are 141,000 documented OFWs in Qatar. The employed Filipinos there are both skilled and semi-skilled workers such as technicians, engineers, nurses among others.
Asked if there is a need to repatriate workers at this time, Bello said, "We still have to study the situation, but even before this time we have been sending of some augmentation team not only to Qatar but also to the other Middle East countries to meet any possible incidents."
He noted that the suspension will depend on the assessment they will be conducting there.
"It depends on the assessment that we will be undertaking. We are in close coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs. Depende kung lala 'yung situation or baka naman yung anticipated problem will come about. So depende na sa situation iyan," the DOLE chief added.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Maldives severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
Source: Philippines News Agency