A Filipino migrant workers’ group Wednesday urges the Philippine government through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to conduct a thorough review and evaluation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) deployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
“Conducting a thorough review and evaluation of OFWs’ deployment in MENA region is not only necessary but also very timely as countries in this part of the world are plagued with internal political strife,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
Monterona said the result of the review and evaluation will guide the Aquino administration’s economic team to seriously rethink the implementation of an intensified labor export program (LEP) and instead put focus on local jobs generation and improvement of our local workers’ plight.
“The political situation, generally in the Middle East and North Africa, remains volatile. The so called ‘Arab Spring’ is far from over with the recent addition of Kuwait now under besieged of demonstrations lead by the disgruntled and forceful youth dissenters,” Monterona averred.
Last June 1, the Bahrain government lifted its State of National Safety declaration after putting the country in a state of emergency. It implemented its internal security and safety measures to curtail anti-government dissenters. But days after the lifting of the State of National Safety, political dissenters are back in protests.
Monterona noted there are five countries in the Middle East which are consistently in the top 10 of OFWs destinations in terms of numbers such as Saudi Arabia (#1 spot), United Arab Emirates (#2), Qatar (#4), Kuwait (#5, and Bahrain (#10).
“The rampant cases of abuses and maltreatment, labor malpractices characterized by contract padding or substitution, salary downgrading, non-payment of salaries, illegal salary deductions, more than 8 hours work without overtime pay, illegal recruitment and human trafficking, are enough reasons for the PH government to conduct a thorough review and evaluation of OFWs deployment in these countries,” Monterona added.
Monterona added that these are also the very reasons cited why Mid-east countries on the top destinations of OFWs have not been included in the list of ‘safe’ countries for our OFWs.
Recently, the POEA issued a resolution listing 76 ‘safe’ countries as OFWs destinations because it believed the government in these countries met any of the three (3) requirements of the amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act or RA10022, to wit:
Has existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of workers;
Is a signatory to and/or a ratifier of multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions relating to the protection of workers; and
Has concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement with the government on the protection of the rights of OFWs.
However, Monterona said the certification of a country as ‘safe’ destination of OFWs is not a matter of simply meeting one of the 3 requirements. “Much weight should be given on the enforcement of laws and treaties protecting our migrant workers,” he added.
“The concerned government agencies must look on what is actually happening on the grounds –rampant cases of abuses, labor malpractices, and illegal recruitment – and not on laws, treaties, or bilateral agreements in order to certify a country as ‘safe’ destination of OFWs,” Monterona averred.
“Sad to note, the PH govt. could not even sign a bilateral agreement or arrangement to protect our OFWs with the governments of Mid-east countries hosting millions of our OFWs,” Monterona concluded. # # #
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator