Assess impact of GCC tension to OFWs – De Lima

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Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the government to conduct an assessment of its readiness to respond to any possible negative effects of the continued diplomatic row between Qatar and its neighboring countries.

In filing Senate Resolution No. 406, De Lima noted the urgency to anticipate any worst-case scenario should tension linger on indefinitely, including the possible repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) deployed in the Arabian peninsula.

“In view of the diplomatic tension, there is a need to look into the preparedness of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), including the embassies and consulates abroad, to provide assistance to OFWs in the event the diplomatic crisis worsens and compromises the safety of OFWs and their families,” she said.

Economists predicted that a protracted diplomatic row among and between member-states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) could result to serious economic and political implications in the region, which may possibly affect an estimated 250,000 OFWs living and working in Qatar.

It may be recalled that Saudi Arabia and six other Arab nations have severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar which they accused of allegedly supporting and financial Islamic extremist groups.

Qatar is one of the top destinations for OFWs which are currently considered as the fourth biggest and fastest growing group of foreign workers.

According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, there is a strong demand for OFWs in Qatar, notably in the field of construction as the Arabian country prepares its hosting of the FIFA World Cup come 2022.

De Lima, a known human rights defender, said the DOLE and DFA should now be put to task to provide support to OFWs in Qatar, including finding possible employment opportunities once they decide to return to the country.

“The DOLE and DFA must also provide constant assessments of the existing situations through the country’s embassies and consulates with a great sense of urgency and be ready to implement contingency measures, including possible repatriation and reintegration,” she said.

De Lima expressed hope that the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors would be settled in a peaceful manner, for the sake of the people who rely on their economies, particularly among the OFWs who could not afford to go back to the Philippines due to the lack of opportunities.

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