Syria labor attaché assigned to Lebanon

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The country’s labor attaché in Syria has been pulled out and assigned to head the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Polo) in Lebanon, apparently in anticipation of a resumption of the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the latter country.

Syria-based labor attaché Angel Borja has been transferred to Lebanon and was replaced by a welfare officer who will deal with the repatriation of the remaining overseas Filipino workers in the war-stricken country, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said.

“We’re slowly phasing out our Polo in Syria since we’re basically dealing with repatriation. There are no longer contract processing that would need the presence of our Polo. We have no deployment there since a total deployment ban is in effect,” Baldoz explained.

“But for as long as there are repatriation cases, our welfare officer will be [in Syria],” she said.

There are some 2,000 OFWs remaining in Syria, according to Baldoz.

According to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, there was a 79 percent decrease in the number of temporary migrants in Syria, from 13,869 to 2,890, mainly because of the Arab Spring or the wave of demonstrations and protests in the Middle East.

Some 22 Filipinos from the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo were expected to arrive in Manila Tuesday night.

Baldoz said Borja was moved to Lebanon to strengthen the Polo presence there as she hinted at the possibility of resuming the deployment of newly hired household service workers (HSWs) there.

In October last year, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) governing board partially lifted the ban against the deployment of OFWs to Lebanon, allowing only returning workers and not newly hired HSWs.

“We’re still waiting for clearance from the competent authorities,” Baldoz said when asked when the deployment of OFWs would resume.

Earlier, she said the POEA had allowed only a partial lifting of the deployment ban because the government is still waiting for a new standard employment contract for HSWs to be agreed.

“The POEA decided on partial lifting in Lebanon because we are still awaiting the completion of the negotiation for a new standard employment contract for HSWs,” she said earlier.

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