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Labor group warns of backlash from OFW deployment ban

A labor and migrants advocacy group on Thursday cautioned the government against “adverse reactions” from the 41 countries cited as unsuitable to host Filipino workers by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

The Blas F. Ople Center said that although the government had no choice but to implement the law, it would still have to defend its actions before “irate” members of the international community.

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“In our bid to provide our overseas workers with information regarding destination countries, let us make sure that longstanding friendships with certain countries would not be harmed,” said center president Susan Ople.

Be prepared

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Ople, a former labor undersecretary, said the Department of Foreign Affairs must also be prepared to defend the POEA’s certification process.

Another OFW group, Migrante International, said it doubted the government could enforce the ban at all.

“On the one hand, it is a positive development that the government seems to be taking serious action to ensure the protection of our OFWs’ rights. On the other, we question the government’s readiness to address the repercussions and implications of the ban,” said Migrante chairman Garry Martinez.

“How does the government plan to absorb the inevitable increase in unemployment that the ban will cause? If they are serious in imposing the ban, they should be serious, too, in creating jobs and giving higher wages here in the Philippines,” he said.

Martinez said OFWs would also become more vulnerable to human trafficking and illegal recruitment schemes as a result of the ban, “because they would find alternative, illegal or backdoor, means to go abroad out of desperation.”

But Vice President Jejomar Binay, chair manof the presidential task force against illegal recruitment and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns, yesterday appealed to those seeking jobs abroad to heed the deployment ban.

“It’s not worth (going to those countries),” he said.

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He likewise warned against “bogus job offers abroad.”

Be on the lookout

“Let’s also be on the lookout for those offering jobs, especially in the countries on the POEA list. Let us know about it right away so no one will be victimized,” he said in Filipino.

Early this week the POEA listed 41 countries as being non-compliant with the requirements set forth in Republic Act No. 10022, the Amended Overseas Workers Migrants Act. The law says that OFW host countries must have adequate laws to protect migrant workers.

Binay cited the act which states that OFW-receiving countries should have “existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of migrant workers; should be a signatory to multilateral conventions and declarations or resolutions relating to the protection of workers; and should have concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement with the government on the protection of the rights of OFWs.”

Ople, however, had other concerns.

“Although they are minor job markets, certain countries like India are huge trading partners. Since we are imposing the ban, the least we can do is explain the reasons behind it in a proper manner through diplomatic and trade channels,” Ople said.

She cited data from the Department of Trade and Industry which showed that total trade with India reached $865.12 million in November 2010 and for the first time passed the $1-billion mark as of the first quarter of 2011.

In Southeast Asia, two countries with close ties to the Philippines were included in the ban, namely, East Timor and Cambodia.

The Philippines sent peacekeepers to East Timor and Cambodia years ago as the two countries transitioned to democracy. The president of East Timor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta, is a friend of President Aquino’s family.

No adequate information

The center also noted that the issuance of the POEA list did not come with adequate information for OFWs and their families.

It advised overseas job applicants to also be careful about accepting offers to work in countries deemed to be compliant by the POEA.

“For example, the Ivory Coast is listed as a compliant country and yet we know of trafficked victims held against their will in its red light district,” she said.

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TAGS: Deployment Ban, DFA, DOLE, Foreign affairs, Labor, ofws, POEA
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