Migrante International calls on the government of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to immediately release all promised financial assistance to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and to release more of such assistance packages in the coming weeks.
We have received reports that OFWs in the UAE have not received the USD 200 cash assistance promised by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on March 25. This, as OFWs in the UAE and their families in the Philippines increasingly face hunger and distress brought about by the economic dislocations caused by measures against the ongoing pandemic.
OFWs in the UAE say that the UAE government has carried out commendable measures — such as the national sterilization program and the creation of five-minute drive-through testing centers across the country. Despite this, OFWs say that they inevitably face various problems in their living and working conditions because of the government’s all-too-necessary #StayAtHome campaign.
OFWs in the UAE report that:
> Many companies, especially in the airline industry, have laid off many workers, including Filipinos.
> Many OFWs face delays in their wages, because of the non-operation of the companies employing them.
> A significant number of OFWs are on forced unpaid leave, as their employer companies are not operating and they are under “no work, no pay” arrangements.
> Majority of OFWs stay together in cramped houses, rooms and work camps where they are forced to disregard physical distancing, making them vulnerable to the Coronavirus and its spread.
> Day by day, OFWs are running out of cash to pay for their house rent, food, and other basic necessities. They are also unable to send remittances to their families in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy to the UAE has also suspended its frontline services, leaving OFWs to fend for themselves and rely on each other to survive.
OFWs in the UAE also express their concern over the Duterte government’s (mis)handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. They condemn the government’s militaristic approach to a public health crisis. They demand that the approach to the pandemic be de-militarized and that health responses should be increased many times over.
They are calling on Filipinos to learn from UAE and other countries and intensify calls for the government to carry out free mass testing among the population. They are also calling for the setting up of more hospitals, the hiring of more health professionals, and the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment, ventilators and other necessary medical facilities.
They say the president’s television addresses fail to reassure them about the situation in the country. The speech lacks clarity on what the government will actually do with the immense budget it has and how it will respond to the many demands being raised before it.
They demand government financial assistance to fellow Filipinos in the Philippines who will be unable to work because of measures against the pandemic. They also demand such assistance for OFW in the Philippines who are not getting remittances of their OFWs relatives abroad.