House panel tackles reported massive displacement of OFWs in the Middle East

By on March 13, 2016

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MANILA—An official of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has said about 1.23 million semi-skilled or low-skilled overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may be displaced should the oil prices in the world market continue to decrease.

Speaking at the briefing conducted by the House Committee on Overseas Welfare Affairs (OWA), Labor Undersecretary Nicon Fameronag denied the reported massive displace of OFWs in the Middle East.

Citing data from DOLE, Fameronag said out of the 196 returning OFWs from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East early this year, only eight of them were displaced due to the decreasing oil prices in the world market.

Fameronag admitted, however, that 1.23 million OFWs would be displaced should the state of the Middle East’s oil industry worsen.

Atty. Francisco Noel Fernandez III of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) told the committee that the situation of the OFWs in the Middle East is not critical at this point.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza (Party-list, TUCP), has started investigating the reported massive displacement of OFWs in the Middle East due to the declining oil prices.

The panel also looked into the government’s plans and programs to assist the returning OFWs.

Despite denial from the representatives of DOLE and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and civil society organizations (CSOs) like the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), Filipino Migrant Workers Group (FMWG), and Migrante were more than convinced that the OFWs in the Middle East are in dire straits as the world oil prices continue to fall.

These organizations hit the government for its slow response to the imminent threat of massive OFW displacement in the region.

On the contrary, Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) assured the Committee that the government is closely monitoring the situation in the Middle East and that government programs are in place to look after the welfare of OFWs in these countries.

“Returning OFWs may avail themselves of DOLE’s ‘Assist-WELL Program,’ a component of the National Reintegration Program for OFWs, which provides welfare, employment, livelihood, and legal assistance to the repatriates,” Cacdac said.

For his part, Rep. Juan Johnny R. Revilla (Party-list, OFW), a vice-chairperson of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development and a member of the committee, pointed out that a significant number of migrant workers are not aware of existing government programs that provide assistance or benefits to OFWs.

Revilla requested the concerned government agencies to conduct a strategic information dissemination campaign to ensure that all OFWs are properly informed of these programs.