Government’s continued apathy towards Nigeria OFWs

July 3, 2008

Late in 2006, the government still allowed deployment of workers to Nigeria despite reported kidnappings. [1]

Early in 2007, President Arroyo declared a “halt” to the deployment of workers to Nigeria after successive kidnapping incidents which involved OFWs in Nigeria’s oil areas. The travel and work ban may have been justifiable at that point. [2]

“The president has ordered a temporary halt to deployments to Nigeria until the security of our nationals is guaranteed,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.

It is to be noted that at the height of Nigerian militants attack on foreign workers in oil areas, it was not only Filipinos who were kidnapped, but other nationals as well. But none of their countries ever declared a ban or even made a travel advisory. [3, 4]

However, long after the kidnapping has been resolved and kidnapped OFWs were released, the government still maintained the travel ban to Nigeria

The travel ban affected not only New Hires but vacationing OFWs as well, —- even those OFWs who had been working in Lagos and non-oil areas for a long time already.

Even the last OFW kidnap victim, Albert Bacani Sr., after his return to the country, asked the the government to lift the travel ban to Nigeria. [5]. Adding that he will still go back to Nigeria after his two months ‘vacation’.

By February 2007, the DFA and POEA still maintained Total Ban to Nigeria, despite the release of all 24 Filipino sailors seized by rebels in January. [6]

By March 2007, upon the strength of the petition of some expatriate companies in Nigeria, the OFW association in Nigeria, and the endorsement of the Philippine Embassy, the Total Ban was scaled-down to Partial Ban, allowing the vacationing OFWs with valid work visa to return to Nigeria. [7]

The partial lifting of ban of deployment to Nigeria will only allow the processing and deployment of returning Filipino workers who are on vacation and are going to work with the same employer and work site in Nigeria. OFWs with new contract are not allowed to leave.

Brion explained the decision to partially lift the ban was in light of the improved security conditions in both countries.

However in May 2007, the government agencies concerned made a turn-around in the Nigeria deployment issues.

“Despite the release [of the hostages], we will not lift the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers [to] Nigeria yet, pending our thorough assessment on the general situation in that African country by the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said in a statement. [8]

Returning OFWs to Nigeria found themselves barred again by Immigration and POEA officials at the NAIA because they were told that a Total Ban was in effect.

Brion’s statements were in complete contradiction the DFA’s recommendation to lift the travel ban to Nigeria. Thus:

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has recommended the “immediate total” lifting of the deployment ban on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Nigeria.

In a letter to Labor Secretary Arturo Brion dated April 30, 2006, a copy of which was obtained by INQUIRER.net, DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. cited the report of the Philippine embassy in Abuja on the “stable” security situation in Nigeria. [9]

This is just the beginning of the flip-flopping decisions made by the DOLE. It also showed a lack of coordination with DFA and POEA.

By early November 2007, it looked like the three agencies — DFA, DOLE and POEA – were really hell-bent in imposing the total travel ban to Nigeria. [10]

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has no plans of lifting the deployment ban on Filipino workers for Nigeria, dzMM reported Wednesday morning.

Rosalinda Baldoz of the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said that security risks to Filipino workers are still present in the African country. She said there are no plans to lift the total ban.

She added that the POEA is asking returning workers affected by the total ban to be considerate of the government’s moves to protect Filipino workers from the rebels in Nigeria

But on Nov. 17, 2007, then-DOLE Sec. Brion issued a memorandum that DOLE has partially lifted the ban in the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the conflict-ridden countries of Nigeria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, but not that to Iraq.In Department Order 86-07, dated November 16, a copy of which was obtained by INQUIRER.net, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion qualified the lifting to the ban to the three countries. [11]

It was supposedly a cause for celebration among Nigeria OFWs as they heaved a sigh of relief, thinking of finally getting a hassle-free vacation. Well, not exactly.

In a case of Wow Mali!, Sec. Brion on Nov. 19, 2007 made a 360-degrees turnaround on his own memorandum. Recalling his own order, Brion said:

The labor department recalled on Monday the order partially lifting the ban in the deployment of Filipino workers to Nigeria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan “in light of expressed concerns on the security/ peace and order situation” in those countries as well as in Iraq. [12]

“….While we previously allowed the deployment of new hires and returning workers to international organizations in Afghanistan, the Department of Foreign Affairs will not issue any ‘no objection’ certificate for Afghanistan; hence there is also an effective complete ban,” the advisory said. [ibid]

This latest travel ban announcement ignited a fierce reaction among Nigeria OFWs. Petitions and angry e-mails circulated though the internet, addressed to government agencies, congressmen, senators, the office of the President and the Vice-President. The Nigeria OFWs were anxious that their Christmas vacation might be in peril if the total ban is not lifted by December 2007. The Nigeria OFWs sent at least three petitions to all government official and agencise concerned. [13]

Despite the massive online and offline effort, no governent agencies and officials intervened. And the Nigeria OFWs had to make a difficult decision last December 2007 whether to go home or not.

To this day, there seems to be no plans to lift the ban to Nigeria. And so Nigerian OFWs continue their petition. [14]

From the OFWs

The OFWs in Nigeria, believe that the imposition of the Total Ban is not the solution to this issue of kidnapping in Southeast Nigeria, which for the record, also involved other nationalities. The continued ban is hurting every Filipinos’ chance of getting a decent work and a chance to contribute to the Philippine economy.

By declaring a Total Ban on Nigeria on account of security issues in the country, the Philippine government is insulting the capabilities of the host country to maintain its internal peace and order. The present administration of His Excellency President Yaradua is exerting a huge effort to secure the oil areas and guaranty the safety of all expatriate workers.

One thing is certain in the OFWs minds, the kidnapping incidents in specific areas of Nigeria is not a mirror of the entire country’s state of security.

The OFWs themselves in the oil-areas have sent numerous letters to the Philippine embassy assuring the embassy that they feel safe with the present security efforts implemented in their workplace.

Filipino workers in Nigeria are found in oil industry, civil and military aviation (pilots and avionics), construction, manufacturing, telecoms and service industries. Others are married to Nigerians, and the rest are relatives of Filipinos with residency.

Nigeria OFWs assure the Philippine government and their loved ones that Nigeria is a decent and relatively safe country to work and stay.

Advisory

Instead of declaring a Total Ban on Nigeria, OFW associations recommend that the Philippine government do what other governments are doing – give out an advisory to Filipino workers in Nigeria to take precaution and observe company security policies. Then it should advise the Philippine embassy to coordinate communication with oil companies to ensure that Filipino workers will have a direct line to embassy if their safety is threatened.

Bilateral Agreement

More significantly, the Nigeria OFW associations strongly recommend that the present administration establish bilateral multi-sectoral agreement with Nigeria and take advantage of the growing Nigerian economy, the increasing demand for foreign workers and technologies, and the export potential of Philippine goods to the Nigerian market.

Having bilateral relations with various sectors would be advantageous to the Philippines, especially with regard to business opportunities and oil supplies, and to the OFWs here.

The bilateral agreement with Nigeria will also pave the way to a similar agreement with the rest of Western Africa, considering that Nigeria is a leader in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Since there are growing numbers of Filipinos working in various ECOWAS nations, an agreement with Nigeria/ECOWAS would ensure protection and better treatment of OFWs, and possible business opportunities.

State Visit

President Gloria M. Arroyo should consider making a state visit to Lagos/Abuja and go up in history as the only Philippine president to ever visit an African State, and maybe the second head of state from Asia to do so, after China’s Hu Jintao.

Preceding the state visit, a Philippines-Nigeria Business Cooperation summit could be organized. This is to pave the way for the establishment of an office to handle Philippine investors coming to Nigeria and to act as a liaison office to various Nigerian authorities.

Embassy Support

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should open a consular office in Lagos, considering that Lagos is the arrival and departure point for Nigeria OFWs.

There is also a need to deploy a Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the Abuja Embassy and in the Lagos Consulate to process and document all Filipino workers in West African countries.

Undocumented Filipinos (those that came with business or tourist visas or came from another country) here would like to be registered with OWWA and POEA and legitimize their existence. For now, only the Filipino community in Lagos – the Philippine Barangay Society in Nigeria (PBSN) — is documenting all OFWs who passed by Lagos by way of membership forms. PBSN is also assisting the Philippine Embassy regarding undocumented and distressed OFWs.

In April 2008, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes visited Lagos, Nigeria to attend a world energy summit. He saw for himself the positive status of Filipinos and the community in Lagos. And he can surely vouch for the stable general peace and order of Nigeria.

Nigeria OFWs fervently hope and pray that Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will reconsider the present policy towards Nigeria, and order for the total lifting of travel and work ban to this country.

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P.S. The Philipines should, instead, implement a TOTAL BAN against the deployment of Domestic Helpers (DH) to Middle East countries since there are more abused, jailed or killed DH in ME countries.

1) [DFA okays OFW travel to Nigeria despite reported kidnap http://www.gmanews.tv/story/9115/DFA-okays-OFW-travel-to-Nigeria-despite-reported-kidnap

2) [Arroyo bans OFW deployment to Nigeria after kidnap] http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storyPage.aspx?storyId=64092

3) [American, Briton kidnapped in Nigeria after Filipinos] http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_kmafp/is_200701/ai_n17138046

4) [Nigeria oil rig raided, 8 abducted] http://www.bt.com.bn/en/world_news/2007/10/27/nigeria_oil_rig_raided_8_abducted

5) [DESPITE KIDNAP ORDEAL, OFW ASKS GOVT TO LIFT DEPLOY BAN TO NIGERIA] http://www.newsflash.org/2004/02/hl/hl106412.htm

6) [OFW work ban in Nigeria stays] http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/feb/15/yehey/top_stories/20070215top4.html

7) [Deployment ban to Lebanon and Nigeria partially lifted] http://www.dole.gov.ph/news/details.asp?id=N000002032

8) [Ban on Nigeria deployment stays — DoLE] http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view_article.php?article_id=65023

9) [DFA recommends lifting of deployment ban to Nigeria]

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/news/view_article.php?article_id=63691

10) [POEA: Deployment ban to Nigeria will continue] http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=98363

11) [OFW ban to Nigeria, Lebanon, Afghanistan partially lifted] http://www.ofw-care.com/2007/11/17/ofw-ban-to-nigeria-lebanon-afghanistan-partially-lifted/

12) [DoLE recalls order on partial lifting of ban ] http://www.gmanews.tv/story/69332/DoLE-recalls-order-on-partial-lifting-of-ban

13) [OFWs in Nigeria long for Christmas in RP] http://www.gmanews.tv/story/71191/OFWs-in-Nigeria-long-for-Christmas-in-RP

14) [Remove Travel Ban to Nigeria – Online Petition] http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/remove-travel-ban-to-nigeria.html

Filipinos in Nigeria websites:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/naijapinoy/

https://philbrgysocietyinnigeria.wordpress.com/

http://profiles.friendster.com/pbsn

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Copyright © 2008 to Barangay OFW. All rights reserved.

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Hinaing ng mga Nigeria OFWs

May 21, 2008

This was last year 2007 efforts. And still no answer.

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Kagalanggalang at pinagpipitagang mga Lingkod ng Bayan,

Ikinagagalak po namin ang pagtawag ninyo sa amin bilang mga MODERN DAY HEROES. Bilang mga BAGONG BAYANI nawa eh pakinggan ninyo at paglaanan ng panahon itong aming mga sinasabi

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, Pilipinas lang ang bukod tangi at nag iisang bansa ang naglabas ng TOTAL BAN papunta dito sa Nigeria. Kung sa bawat bansa na may makikidnap ay magpapalabas kayo ng Ban sa pangunguna pa naman ni Kabayang NOLI eh siguro marapat din na mag BAN kayo sa ibang bansa. Tama po ba? Nung nakaraang lingo ay may namatay na pinay sa Canada, o bakit di kayo mag impose ng Ban doon para maipakita sa ating mga kababayan sa Pilipinas na CONCERN kayo sa aming mga OFW. Siguro sasabihin ninyo na isolated case iyon. Eh kung sabihin din natin na ang nangyari kay G. Bacani ay isolated case din.

I doubt kung sakaling may ma rape sa Saudi ay mag impose kayo ng Ban doon. I doubt kung sakaling may namatay sa UAE ay mag impose kayo ng Ban doon.

  1. Sa bilang ng OFW sa lugar ng Niger Delta siguro eh maaaring meron na makasama na Pinoy sa makikidnap. Ratio and Proportion po, ganun kasimple. Pero bakit ang ibang mga nasyon ay di naglalabas ng total ban. May namatay po nung nakaraan na isang British National, pero bakit hindi sila naglabas ng ganyang kautusan. ILL- ADVISED.

  1. Kasabay ng pagkidnap kay G. Bacani ay nasawimpalad at namatay ang isa nyang kasamahan na Columbiano, PERO BAKIT hindi sila (Columbian Govt.) nag impose ng ban para sa mga overseas workers nila na nandito? Kayo lamang na mga administrador – Vice Pres, DOLE, POEA, NBI ang bigla biglang nagpalabas ng ganyang kautusan.

  1. Ang mga tao po dito sa embahada natin ay di man lamang hiningan ng inputs bago kayo nag implement ng ban na yan. May mga kasama po kami na nagtanong muna sa mga tao ng Embassy kung mag ba BAN ba, ng sa ganun eh hindi sana sila muna magbabakasyon gaya ng nangyari nung Pebrero ng taong ito. Since nagbigay sila ng GUARANTEE na hindi naman daw, sumulong ang iba naming kasamahan. Sa puntong ito lumalabas na TRINAYDOR sila. Nasaan sila, andun sa kanilang mga bahay, dumadalangin na sana ma-lift ang BAN. May iniaabot ba naman ang gobyerno sa kanila pra pangtustos sa kanilang araw araw na gastos. Saan sila ngayon kukuha ng pambayad sa eskwela, ang baon ng mga bata, ang pang monthly amortization sa bahay, sasakyan or lupa?

  1. Sa ginawa po ninyong ito ay inalisan nyo ng karapatan na magkaroon ng oportunidad na magtrabaho at iangat ang antas ng aming mga sariling buhay. Para kaming mga bata na inagawan ng kendi, buti sana kung may TOBLERONE kayong ipapalit dito, pero WALA naman. Ang nangyari tuloy ay napipilitan ang mga kumpanya na kumuha ng ibang lahi para sa sana eh mga posisyon at trabaho para sa Pilipino.

  1. Sabi ni Sen. Mar Roxas sa kanyang kolum sa ABANTE, “Payong kapatid lamang, siguro’y mas mainam na dito na lamang kayo makipagsapalaran sa ating bayan.”. Ang malaking katanungan po para sa amin ay kung sakali bang umuwi kami ng Pilipinas, may naghihintay bang trabaho para sa amin? May mga programa bang nakalaan para sa amin? Base sa nakaraang pag impose ninyo ng ban nung February 2007, may napala ba yung mga na-stranded dyan sa atin? May nakuha ba sila mula sa ipinagmamalaking OWWA, POEA at DOLE, wala po, ni SINGKONG DULING!

Madali pong sabihin para sa kanya dahil sa estado ng kanyang buhay. Pero naranasan na ba nyang pumila sa mga agency sa Malate, Singalong…Sa dami ng nag aapply gusto nyo bang makidagdag pa kami doon?

  1. Ang nangyayari na pagkidnap sa Niger Delta ay di natin pwedeng ikumpara sa sitwasyon ng Jolo, Sulu. Unang una, dito po ay ganitong sequenze ang nangyayari KIDNAP-RANSOM-RELEASE. Mas mainam pa rin kung tutuusin kesa sa pamumugot ng ulo na ginagawa ng mga bandido sa atin. Kahit po ang gobyerno ng America sa aking pagkakaalam (correct me again if I’m wrong) ay di naglabas ng Total Ban na magpunta dyan ang kanilang mga citizens, manapay isang ADVISORY LAMANG. Ano ang mararamdaman ninyo kung ang i-impose nila ay TOTAL BAN sa kahit saang sulok ng Pinas kasi magulo sa Sulu lamang.

Dito, inimpose nyo na buong Nigeria samantalang sa iisang lugar lang may nagaganap na kidnap for ransom na sitwasyon. Kung ikukumpara naman sa atin di hamak na dito di ka maga alala na ma-snatch ang celfone mo. Di ka kinakabahan pag naglalakad ka sa kalye na baka may holdaper. Subukan nyo pong magpunta dito para makita at maranasan nyo ang aming mga sinasabi. Ika nga ni Kasamang Manny G. Figueroa, bukas ang kanyang bahay para sa inyo.

  1. Ngayon, kung talaga naman na di na kayo matitinag sa inyong desisyon, siguro (I don’t know If everybody will agree with my proposal here), Papirmahin nyo na lang kami ng waiver, any OFW who will go to NIGERIA is obliged to sign it. Waiver na magsasabing kung may mangyari sa amin dito ay wala kayong sagutin. DAHIL SA TOTOO WALA NAMAN TALAGA KAMING AASAHAN SA INYO. Ano po ba ang napapala namin sa pagkuha ng OEC (Overseas Employment Certificates) ? Maliban sa libreng Kape sa airport, nakakatipid lang kami ng mga 600 siguro. (700 po kasi ang tax pag walang OEC minus 100 kaya 600 hindi pa kasama dito ang pamasahe at pagkain sa pagpunta sa POEA Centers). Isipin nyo din po na sa bawat bakasyon namin na kukuha kami nyang OEC ay isang araw ang nawawala sa amin.

Since tinuturing nyo rin naman na kami eh BAGONG BAYANI, sana maramdaman namin yun. Ikaw nga ni Sen. Roxas sa banding huli mas mainam pa rin ang gawa kaysa saita. Siguro panahon na rin na bigyan nyo kami ng proteksyon. Ito ang panahon para kayo ay magpa POGI. Dahil kayo ay mga mambabatas, bakit di kayo bumalangkas ng mga programa para sa mga OFW.

Muli po, correct me if I’m wrong kung ang mga sasabihin ko ay mali or ang mga programang aking babanggitin ay existing na pala. Ito ay sa kadahilanang hindi ko alam na meron na pala,or hindi lang siguro nabigyan ng wastong kaalaman ukol dito.

  1. Ang bawat OFW na umaalis ay natitigil ang pagbabayad ng SSS, maliban na lamang kung ikaw ay boluntaryong maghuhulog nito. Siguro dapat nating paalalahanan ang mga agency na i-discuss ito sa mga taong pinapaalis nila, dahil saying naman yung mga ilang taong paghuhulog mo tapos mababalewala na dahil di ka naman na inform. Maaari din naman sigurong i-obliga ng ating batas na magbabayad din ang OFW kaalinsabay ng pagbabayad ng kumpanyang kanyang pagta trabahuhan. Di po ba sa atin ay ganyan ang kalakaran, ang kumpanya at ang empleyado ay parehas na may share sa contributions. Bakit hindi rin natin ito gawin para sa mga BAGONG BAYANI?

  1. Sa kawalan ng proteksyon, marami pong cases na ang mga properties ng isang OFW (kotse, bahay, lupa) ay nahahatak ng bangko. Kahit pa sabihin halimbawa na 3 buwan na lamang ang di mo pa nahuhulugan, walang awa nila itong hahatakin. Sana po magkaroon naman ng kaunting konsiderasyon para sa isang BAYANI na tulad namin. Kaunting flexibility kumbaga. Alam kong maraming factor kayo na i-co consider pero sana mabigyan nyo ng panahon na pag aralan ito.

  1. Ang ibang mga nasyon na nagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa ay may mga insurances na kasama sa benefits nila dahil obligado ang kumpanya na mag provide nito. Bakit ang Pilipinas ay walang ganito?

  1. Ang embahada po ng Pilipinas sa Nigeria ay nasa Abuja samantalang ang entry point po ng mga OFW ay nasa Lagos (ang pamasahe po papunta dito ay humigit kumulang sa 100 US Dollar or 4400 pesos). Siguro yung nabanggit ni Se. Roxas na budget ay maaari nyang ilaan dito. Maglagay ng kahit isang munting opisina sa Lagos.

  1. Bigyan ng proteksyon ang buying power ng OFW. Isarado sa 50 pesos = 1 dollar hanggat di tumataas ang dollar rate.

  1. Bigyan ng wastong kaalaman ang mga OFW tungkol doon sa MULTIPLE OEC? Sa mga di po nakakaalam, meron daw na multiple OEC, ibig sabihin kung sa loob ng isang taon ay 2 o mahigit pa na lumalabas ka ng bansa, pwede ka ng kumuha ng maramihan nito. Meron nga ba nitong multiple OEC? Bakit di ini-explain or ipost man lang sa mga POEA Centers? Kung ang isang OFW ay may 15 days na bakasyon, 1 araw nito ay gugugulin nya sa pagpunta sa POEA para makakuha ng OEC. Bakit hindi po kaya natin ilagay yung POEA for 24 hours operation sa NAIA. Yung tipong paglabas namin ng eroplano ay pwede ka ng kumuha ng OEC. Yung sinasabi ni Sen Roxas na dagdag na budget eh siguro pwedeng ilaan sa mga empleyado na magta trabaho sa ganitong purpose.

Pagkalampas po ng Customs sa NAIA sa banding kanan ay may booth doon ang POEA, nakasulat po na napakalaki 24-HOURS ON DUTY. Ng itanong ko sa Security Guard, eto ang kanyang sagot “Ay hanggang 5pm lang po sila”. Kalimitan po 10 or 11 PM dumadating ang mga OFW na galing sa Nigeria, kaya siguro marapat na totohanin ang ganitong programa na 24 HOURS na may POEA para dun na kami kukuha ng OEC. Sayang din naman kasi ang oras, pagod sa pagbyahe at gastos sa pagpunta sa POEA sa Ortigas or sa mga branches nila. Tama po ba?

Sana mabigyan nyo ng pansin itong aming hinaing. Salamat po. Yun lang.

Nagmamahal,

PBB (Pilipino Bagong Bayani)