DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government is still keeping its option open to repatriate Filipino workers in Iran and Lebanon even as tensions in the Middle East has calmed down between the United States and Iran.
Bello said the order for repatriation released on Wednesday, January 8, remains. This after the Department of Foreign Affairs reported that the alert status remains high.
US President Donald Trump announced on January 9 they are backtracking from their threat to escalate attacks in Iran after his order of assassination of top Iranian military general Qassen Soleimani. This following Iran’s missile firing that targeted US military bases in Iraq.
Bello said that no workers have yet to contact authorities to ask for the repatriation assistance.
“As of now, we have not received any request from our OFW that they want to go home. Only their families have contacted us to check on their situation and for updates on the said countries,” he said.
There are 2,191 Filipinos working in Iraq and 1,184 in Iran. Government recorded over 2.1 million Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East, both documented and undocumented.
Bello said they are giving overseas Filipino workers the option to choose whether to stay or return back to the country.
“We will ask them to join the repatriation efforts, however, if they do not cooperate, then we can no longer do anything about it,” he said. “We will also get in touch with their employers to let our OFWs come home,” Bello added.
The overseas workers group Migrante International said OFWs are wary to return to the country because there is no job assured to them.
“What is the assurance of Filipino workers in those affected countries at war if they choose to cooperate with the repatriation? Can the government be able to provide jobs immediately for those who will be unemployed upon returning back to our country?” Migrante Chairperson Joanna Concepcion asked.
The government has allotted 500-million pesos standby fund for immediate emergency concerns, on top of the 100 million pesos repatriation fund.
The Department of Labor has provided hotline numbers 1348 and 1349 for overseas workers in the Middle East to contact them for assistance. (Philip Bagay,HCDC intern/davaotoday.com)