Gov't lifts OFW ban in northern Iraq

by Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 12 2012 08:03 AM | Updated as of May 12 2012 04:03 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government has lifted the ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued Memorandum Circular No. 4 Series of 2012 on April 27 lifting the deployment ban to Kurdistan.

In November the DFA said that the Philippines would revisit the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Iraq based on an assessment of the situation in the country.

The government’s policy on Iraq, the DFA said, may change depending on the situation there.

Despite the Philippines’ travel and labor deployment to Iraq, the government failed to stop the recruitment of OFWs to work in US military camps in Iraq.

Around 6,000 Filipinos are working in Iraq, according to the DFA.

Safe for OFWs

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has declared Kurdistan as a safe destination for Filipino nurses and other skilled workers.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said she has received a report from the DFA that the situation in northern Iraq is now generally peaceful.

“Kurdistan is now recognized internationally because of the relative safety that led to its economic growth, which in turn gives greater incentive for the government there to maintain the satisfactory level of peace and security in the region,” Baldoz said in a statement.

Based on the DFA report, there are now representatives from various countries, ranging from consulate generals to liaison officers.

Baldoz noted that 200 OFWs are now employed in oil, telecoms, and hotel industries in Kurdistan.

The POEA, on the other hand, warned that aggressive recruitment of highly skilled workers is illegal.

“It is unethical to offer overseas employment to groups of workers, especially highly skilled workers, for the purpose of pulling them out of gainful employment in our country. Such practices affect our economy and investor confidence, and deplete skills in local industries. Let’s be clear about one thing: actual decent work in the Philippines should never be undermined by jobs offered abroad,” POEA chief Hans Cacdac said.

Cacdac noted that under the law, a person is prohibited from attempting to induce a worker already employed to quit his employment by offering him another job, unless the transfer is designed to liberate a worker from oppressive terms and conditions of employment.

He said the POEA is ready to file proper charges against any person or recruitment agency found violating the law.

The POEA issued the warning following reports that some licensed agencies are engaging in predatory recruitment.