On June 14, the Philippine government announced that it is extending the ban on all travellers from the United Arab Emirates, Oman, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The first two are some of the top destinations of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Middle East and a ban on travellers from these countries has been in effect since May 15.

Migrante-Middle East, together with OFWs in the UAE, Oman and the Middle East, are calling on the government of Rodrigo Duterte to immediately lift this travel ban. This restriction is causing a lot of suffering among OFWs — especially those who are on vacation, who lost jobs, whose visas have expired or are expiring, and who are pregnant and are sick but are fit to travel — and their families.

To call on the Duterte government, we are launching our petition on this issue:

We agree that the spread of Covid-19 and its variants should be stopped. This does not automatically mean imposing travel bans that punish OFWs. What the government should do is scale and speed up its Covid-19 testing efforts, even as it provides free quarantine facilities for all returning OFWs and immediate medical attention to those who will test positive.

The government should not scrimp on spending for OFWs — whether for quarantine facilities or mass testing. Progressive think-tank Ibon Foundation says that the government has funds to provide various forms of assistance to Filipinos — including the P217 billion in funds from Bayanihan 1 and 2, as well as P58.9 billion in unpaid obligated funds. There are also P2.9 trillion in revenues and P3 trillion estimated borrowings for 2021. Funds for the following can also be realigned: debt servicing, infrastructure, intelligence funds, and counter-insurgency.

OFWs now feel that we are being denied of our country. The Philippine government should protect us, but is not doing so. We have contributed so much to the Philippine economy and we ask only that the goverment spend a little more so that we can be re-united with our families after years of working abroad.

An OFW, Anabelia Pernia, posted a video on Facebook Group of OFWs in the UAE where she complained about the new ban, which prevents her from being with her family in the Philippines. In her video, Pernia said, “Miss na miss ko na ang mga anak ko… Mahigit two years hindi nakikita ang pamilya. Pinapahirapan n’yo kaming mga OFW.”

We are also calling for the removal of the Affidavit of Support and Guarantee (AoSG) as a requirement for Filipinos to visit their OFW relatives in the UAE. The UAE government is gracious enough to allow families to visit OFWs, but the Philippine government that is making this difficult by imposing the said requirement. The Philippine government should also make its embassies’ and consulates’ service to OFWs accessible, swift and caring.###