Philippines seeks new hosts for Mideast OFWs in case of repatriation

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2020 11:26 AM | Updated as of Jan 09 2020 11:54 AM

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MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday it would "accelerate" negotiations with countries that could serve as alternative destinations for Filipino workers in the Middle East in case they are forced to return home.

Overseas Filipino workers, in case of repatriation, will be profiled to match their skills with available jobs in Japan, China, Russia, Canada and Israel, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told ANC’s Headstart.

"We just have to accelerate our negotiations with those countries. In the meantime we are profiling the OFWs na marerepatriate natin para alam natin kung saan natin sila dadalahin (so that we will know where to send them),” Bello said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in Iran and Iraq following a bomb attack on 2 US airbases in Baghdad. Senior government officials were sent to the Middle East to “lay the groundwork for evacuation.”

A P100 million budget allotted for food and medicine for OFWs in the Middle East was set for the evacuation, Bello said.

The Philippine Embassy earlier raised the Alert Level 4 in Iraq due to the escalating tension with the US, which means forced evacuation has to be conducted. The alert level in Iran has been lifted, while Lebanon has been downgraded to Level 2, he said.

The Department of Labor and Employment is working with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in arranging livelihood programs to returning OFWs who wish to stay in the country for good, he said. 

There are over 1,000 OFWs in Iran, 2,291 in Iraq and 33,234 in Lebanon, DOLE data showed. Some 2,174,000 Filipinos are currently in the Middle East, Bello said.