House panel to meet on contingency plans for OFWs in Mideast

The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs will hold a special meeting on January 13 (Monday) to discuss urgent issues affecting overseas Filipino workers' (OFWs) welfare, especially amid the turmoil in the Middle East.

The panel, chaired by TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza, will tackle the current situation of OFWs in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East relative to the escalating tension between Iran and the United States.

The committee would also come up with contingency measures in case there is a need for massive repatriation of OFWs.

The Department of Labor and Employment has announced that the mandatory repatriation for OFWs in Iraq remains in effect, while Filipino workers in Iran and Lebanon would no longer be forcibly repatriated after the alert levels in these countries have been downgraded.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), however, said a deployment ban remains in effect in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the recent tensions do not really call for the immediate repatriation of all OFWs in the Middle East, describing the potential massive evacuation as a logistical nightmare.

Unless it's a nuclear war God forbid and no one wants that wala kang tataguan (there's nowhere to hide). But if it's not a nuclear war, meron areas in the Middle East na mas mura na dun i-safety ang mga Pinoy (there are areas in the Middle East where we could move the Filipinos for safety), Cayetano said.

Cayetano, who was a former Foreign Affairs Secretary, said the government needs a conservative estimate of PHP20 billion in standby funds for the repatriation of OFWs in the Middle East.

Another agenda of the House panel is to discuss the case of OFW Jeanelyn Villavende, a domestic worker who was killed by her employer in Kuwait.

A partial deployment ban for OFWs to Kuwait has been in effect because of Villavende's death.

Source: Philippines News Agency