MANILA — A labor group on Saturday urged the government to create an evacuation plan for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) working in the Middle East who might be affected by a possible escalation of violence in the region.
“With the growing instability in that region, there is an urgent need for a Philippine government escape plan that takes every OFWs from harm’s way either by land, sea or air,” Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) president and party-List Rep. Raymond Mendoza in a statement.
Mendoza also asked President Rodrigo Duterte to convene government agencies that would draft a plan for Filipinos in case the situation worsens.
“We therefore call on the President to convene a multi-government agency panel that would device an early escape plan which would lead or supervise a possible relocation or repatriation of our OFWs before they are directly affected by the escalating armed conflict in the region,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said the plan involves multiple type of government responses that requires contributions from different government institutions such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, among others.
Mendoza, who also chairs the House Committee on Overseas Foreign Workers, said the advance government plan will also bring in advance notice to OFWs and allay anxiety among them and their families back at home.
“There is no harm in being prepared, identifying contingency measures and taking due diligence in anticipation of a worst-case scenario in the Middle East,” he said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed that last year, there are around 1.2 million registered OFWs working in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, and Bahrain.
Tensions escalated in the region after top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq on Friday which was ordered by US President Donald Trump.
Tehran vowed a fierce retaliation against those responsible for the death of Soleimani.