02/06/2009 | 04:10 PM
MANILA, Philippines – The assessment team which will look into the possibility of lifting the deployment ban to Iraq will also study the possible resumption of the deployment of Filipino workers to Lebanon and Nigeria.
Vice President Noli De Castro – who is also the concurrent presidential adviser on OFWs – said the security of Filipino workers who will be deployed to these countries will be the main consideration for the assessment team led by special envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu.
The team will leave for Iraq, Lebanon and Nigeria next week.
“We seek to lift the deployment bans on these countries in order to widen our overseas employment market in the light of the global economic crisis besetting us… But of course, the safety and welfare of our OFWs far outweigh the economic effects. That’s why the decision of lifting the ban will be exhaustively and carefully studied,” De Castro said.
The government has decided to review its deployment policy in the three countries after receiving reports that security situation there have normalized, De Castro said.
But he said Manila will maintain its deployment ban in Jordan and Afghanistan as these countries are still considered “high-risk zone” for Filipino workers.
Manila imposed a ban on Iraq following the kidnapping of two Filipino truck drivers in 2004 and 2005.
Before the ban, around 6,000 Filipinos are working in Iraq and confined inside US military camps due to the volatile security condition in the country. But the figure, according to Iraq’s embassy in Manila, has swelled to 15,000, most of them working for foreign companies in Iraq’s northern region.
There is no way to monitor the exit and entry of Filipino workers in Iraq after the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad was temporarily relocated to Amman, Jordan in January 2005 because of the worsening security condition in the Middle East state.
The government likewise imposed a ban on Lebanon in 2006 after violence erupted between Hezbollah fighters and Israeli forces. Around 6,000 of them have been repatriated to the Philippines during the war, while the rest opted to stay for fear of losing their jobs. Manila also stopped the deployment of workers to Nigeria following a spate of kidnappings involving Filipino workers. – GMANews.TV