Middle East tension prompts suspension of certifications for Muslim OFWs
COTABATO CITY –– The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) has suspended the issuance of certifications to Muslim Filipinos planning to work abroad in the wake of the conflict in the Middle East between the United States and Iran, an official said Wednesday.
Dimapuno Datu Ramos Jr., NCMF spokesperson, said the agency had stopped issuing on Tuesday the Certificate of Tribal Membership (CTM) to Muslim Filipinos wanting to work abroad.
“This was triggered by the tension in the Middle East,” he said in a phone interview.
Early Wednesday, Iran launched missile attacks on US forces stationed in Iraq.
Datu Ramos, also the NCMF director for external relations, said they used to issue at least 50 certifications daily to Muslim Filipinos who wanted to go out of the country.
The certification has been a requirement by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) when Muslim Filipinos apply for passports, he said, adding that the requirement was also part of the measures in support of the government’s campaign against human trafficking.
Datu Ramos said the decision to stop the issuance of the CTM was based on the pronouncement of President Duterte, who expressed grave concern about the condition and safety of OFWs in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Iran and nearby Arab countries as a result of the escalating tension between Iran and the United States.
During the 45th Cabinet meeting Monday night, Duterte ordered Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, special envoy to the Middle East, and Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mamao to travel to Iran and Iraq to see the conditions of OFWs there.
Duterte also created a special committee composed of the Secretaries of National Defense and the Interior and Local Government, the National Security Adviser, the Secretaries of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Department of Transportation to draw up plans and measures for the evacuation of Filipinos working there.
Datu Ramos said the NCMF’s next moves would depend on the results of Cimatu’s and Mamao’s travel to the Middle East.
He added his office was still collating the latest number of Muslim Filipinos working in the Middle East, but based on the 2018 Survey on Overseas Filipinos conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, close to 50,000 or 2.1 percent of almost 2.3 million OFWs, were from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, now known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Edited by LZB
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