SUSPENSION. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announces the suspension of the deployment of OFWs to Qatar on June 6, 2017. Photo by Patty Pasion/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has suspended the deployment of workers to Qatar as the government assesses the situation in that country, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced Tuesday, June 6.
Bello said in a news briefing that the deployment suspension covers Qatar-bound workers whose papers are being processed and those who are ready for deployment.
The Philippine government made the decision after several Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, severed ties with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorists. Qatar had denied this.
Bello said the government anticipated problems in Qatar that may affect Filipino workers there.
"We are foreseeing a possible problem in Qatar like for example, as you know, Qatar is not producing its own food. If anything happens, they run out of food...our OFWs will be the first victims," he said.
Bello said he had directed the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Qatar to stock food, though he was told that food supply was not a problem yet.
He has also augmented the manpower of POLOs in Qatar and other countries in the Middle East to address the concerns of Filipino workers.
Bello stressed that the Philippines and Qatar have strong diplomatic ties. Qatar was among the 3 countries that Duterte included in his Middle East trip in April.
For his part, Bello said the labor minister of Qatar invited him to visit the country "to enter a memorandum of agreement governing the relations between Qatar and our country."
In a statement, Malacañang said the decision of some Arab nations to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar "may have some ripple effects over our overseas Filipino workers."
"Concerned government agencies are now looking at the matter and will extend other support and assistance to OFWs who may be affected by such action," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.