Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GMA asked to ensure OFWs safety in Lebanon

Press Release
May 14, 2008

Despite deployment ban
OFWs still sent to chaotic Lebanon ;
Arroyo govt. urge to take measure to ensure OFWs safety

An alliance of Overseas Filipino workers’ organizations in the Middle East today lambasted the Arroyo administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which are sleeping in its monitoring against recruitment agencies that keep on sending OFWs to Lebanon despite deployment ban imposed by the government.

An officer of Filipino-Lebanese Friendship Association based in Lebanon the other day has confirmed that around 5,000 Filipino households have entered in Lebanon since the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 has ended.

“It has been reported that violence has been escalating in Lebanon due to infighting of two warring Muslim factions, the Shiite and Sunni groups, and based on our monitoring from local media it will escalate in the coming days; such hostilities in Lebanon certainly put the lives of fellow OFWs in Lebanon at great risks,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

International media reported an estimated 50 people have already been killed due to heavy fighting between US-backed Lebanon government army and militia Hezbollah group which the former opted a policy of disarming the latter.

There are an estimated 25,000 OFWs now working in Lebanon mostly as domestic helpers.

“Like in Iraq , despite deployment ban imposed by the Arroyo administration, we are wondering why there are still a considerable numbers of OFWs that have been sent to work as domestic helpers in Lebanon where a civil war is now escalating,” Monterona queried.

Monterona further said that during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict most Lebanese employers have just left their domestic helpers and were even locked inside their employer’s houses.

“That time Lebanese are swiftly fleeing and securing only themselves and members of their families leaving behind our fellow OFWs at their employer’s houses, thus putting OFWs lives at great risks at time when heavy bombs are pouring like rain,” Monterona continued.

Issuance of advisory from the Philippine government to OFWs in Lebanon to keep off the streets and just follow their employer’s instruction is not enough; a pro-active plan must now be crafted having in mind the safety and security of our fellow OFWs in Lebanon .

“The Middle East Preparedness Team which has been headed by Gen. Roy Cimatu should immediately assess the worsening situation in Lebanon and from its assessment, if required, develop a plan for the immediate evacuation of the more or less 100 stranded and ran away OFWs in Philippine Embassy’s resource center.

Monterona said that Philippine officials in Lebanon should made themselves and their office available and try to get in touch with our fellow OFWs by having available telephone hotlines in time where fellow OFWs need assistance for their safety and security.

However, the migrant leader reminded the Arroyo administration that the cost for evacuation of OFWs in Lebanon should not be made a justification to charging it from Php.10-B OWWA fund held in trust in the government.

Monterona recalled the released of US$293,500 for the Middle East Preparedness Team during the US war of aggression in Iraq presumably for the immediate repatriation of OFWs but in fact no repatriation took placed, and the said amount has not been properly audited.

Migrante ME is urging the POEA to intensify its monitoring drive against recruitment agencies that are continuously sending OFWs in Lebanon and Iraq , where there is heavy internal conflict.

“The Arroyo administration and POEA should seriously prosecute recruitment agencies violating the deployment ban in Lebanon and Iraq to ensure that our fellow OFWs and aspiring alike will not be sent to war-torn Iraq and Lebanon .” Monterona added.

“We reiterate our call to POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz to seriously investigate and prosecute its officials as well who are found to be conniving with recruitment agencies that are still sending OFWs in Lebanon and Iraq despite the government imposed deployment ban as we have heard “pera pera lang iyan” (money is all that needed) to acquire an Overseas employment Certificate (OEC) from POEA,” Monterona ended. # # #

John Leonard Monterona
regional coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

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