Gov’t evades responsibility with OFW waiver – Migrante Int’l

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and families Migrante International called on the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to cease from requiring returning OFWs to conflict-ridden countries to submit a waiver that virtually washes the Philippine government’s hands off the responsibility to ensure their safety and security.

In light of the ongoing conflict in Bahrain, the POEA released Advisory No. 10, Series of 2011 dated March 10, requiring returning OFWs to Bahrain to “execute an affidavit that he/she is well aware of the security risk, but voluntarily proceeds (to Bahrain)”.

In response, the Philippine Embassy in Bahrain posted a “draft or sample waiver” in its website and Facebook page to “make it easier for the returning workers/residents to comply with the requirements of the POEA and to obviate the need to secure and pay the services of a lawyer who will prepare the waiver for them”.

“This is all kinds of twisted. The POEA and the government are justifying their lack of political will, decisiveness and concrete blueprint for OFWs in Bahrain and elsewhere where conflicts are ongoing. Tulad ng dati, mas pipiliin ng gobyerno na pikit-matang magpadala ng mga manggagawang Pilipino sa ibang bansa pero walang malinaw na panuntunan kung paano sila proprotektahan. Ang siste ay bahala na kayo sa buhay ninyo kung balak niyong bumalik,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

“We call on all returning OFWs to Bahrain, let us not give the Philippine government this escape. Huwag pumirma ng waiver dahil pahihintulutan lang nito ang kagustuhan ng gobyerno na maghugas-kamay sa responsibilidad sa ating mga OFW,” he said.

Martinez said that they have also received word that the POEA is also planning to implement the same requirement for returning OFWs to Syria.

Bahrain, Syria and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions continue to experience political unrest as a result of violent clashes between the government and protesters. Some nationals and migrants have reportedly been killed in the skirmishes in the last few months.

On travel and deployment ban

Martinez also clarified Migrante International’s position with regard the “lifting” of the deployment ban to Bahrain.

“Migrante International reiterates its stand that, in principle, it is not against a deployment or travel ban especially on confirmed hot spots where OFWs and Filipino nationals may be placed in great danger. However, the evaluation if a country is safe or unsafe to work or travel in is the responsibility of the Philippine government. To correctly assess the situation, particularly in the MENA region, the government should provide concrete analysis of the political conditions and their possible effects on our kababayans.”

“Judging from what happened in Libya, the government has obviously been caught off guard and had no comprehensive plan and program for OFWs in times of crisis such as war, or even in the case of Japan, calamities,” Martinez said.

“The real problem here is that the government has no political will and economic ascendency to impose genuine preventive and protective measures because it has become hostage to a labor export policy that always chooses windfalls from OFW remittances over the safety and welfare of our OFWs. It continues to capitalize on our Filipino workers’ desperation resorting to forced migration in justifying the continuous deployment of our cheap labor even to places of grave threat or danger.”

“We have expressed time and again the tragedy of the labor export policy – our OFWs would opt to face head-on grave and serious danger than endure lack of jobs and livelihood for their families here in the Philippines. This is the reason why despite the ongoing conflicts in Bahrain, Syria and elsewhere in MENA our Filipinos are still hell-bent to leave,” said Martinez.

The migrant leader said that the “tragedy of labor export” is the main reason why OFWs and families will be joining Filipino workers and other sectors in the Labor Day protests. “Our battle cry: Stop forced migration! Create jobs at home! No to labor export policy!” ###