By Ralph Villanueva/Manila Times
The Rodrigo Duterte administration is eyeing Oman and Bahrain as alternative employment destinations for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) displaced by the government’s decision to stop deployment to Kuwait.
“We are particularly keen on finding alternative employment in countries such as Oman and Bahrain, both of which are signatories to the relevant International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention that protects migrant workers,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr said in a news briefing yesterday.
Roque said Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello was also working on a mechanism to deploy workers to China as another alternative destination.
“The mechanism is being worked out. Hopefully, there will be bilateral agreements soon,” Roque said.
Bello in a statement said there were lots of other alternative job markets for OFWs affected by the deployment ban to that country, including Czechoslovakia, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Europe and the United States.
“There are more than 100,000 jobs available to our OFWs. That would not be enough but we will also provide them with livelihood alternatives,” Bello added.
More than 300 OFWs returned home in two separate flights from Kuwait, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said yesterday.
Roque said the repatriated Filipinos who arrived in Manila yesterday morning was only the first batch of Filipinos allowed to leave the Gulf state after applying for amnesty.
OWWA said 220 OFWs arrived via Philippine Airlines (PAL) PR669 while Gulf Air flight GF154 carried the second batch of 102 Filipino workers.
The figure includes Filipinos who have overstayed or escaped from their employers.
Returning OFWs will be given financial assistance of P5,000 from OWWA, and another P20,000 for “alternative livelihood” from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The deployment ban was announced by the Department of Labour and Employment (DoLE) yesterday.
This was amid an investigation on Filipino household workers dying in that country.
Bello yesterday said the deployment ban to that country would be effective immediately and would last until revoked.
“In pursuit of national interest, and with the advent of the series of reports involving abuse and death of overseas Filipino workers, a total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers pursuant to the directive of the president of the Philippines is hereby enforced,” Administrative Order (AO) No54, series of 2018, stated. Bello has formed task forces to address the issue, provide protection to other OFWs in the Middle East and convince others to come home and avail themselves of local job opportunities.
The first task force, headed by Labour Undersecretary Dominado Say, was tasked to handle the repatriation of OFWs pursuant to the directive of the president to repatriate them within 72 hours.
Bello pointed out though that the repatriation would be voluntary in nature, saying that “those who wanted to go home and those who have no more jobs they will be repatriated but those who have good jobs and are being treated well by their employers can stay for as long as they want.”
The second task force, headed by Labuor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad, is scheduled to go the Middle East for an assessment mission to find out the conditions of the OFWs and how the DoLE could be of assistance to them.
The third task force, headed by Labour Undersecretary Claro Arellano, was tasked to hold job fairs and recruit OFWs to take advantage of the 18,000 jobs for skilled workers being offered by former Senate president Manuel Villar Jr.
The OWWA has allocated an initial P50mn for the repatriation of OFWs,
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