DOLE eyes expansion of OFW deployment ban to other countries

MANILA — The government is looking to expand the ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly the household service workers (HSWs), to other nations in the Middle East, unless host countries can assure the protection of the rights and welfare of Filipino workers.

According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the widened deployment ban may be considered to countries with known rampant cases of maltreatment and abuse of OFWs.

“For example, in Saudi, it is a common malpractice that the employer trades or switches their worker to other employers. That’s what they call the kafala system and it is always for consideration,” he said.

“We will impose the same restrictions (like in Kuwait) and will consider deployment ban if strengthened protection of our OFWs was not assured,” Bello added.

He said that the prohibition of the kafala practice was also being pushed by the government to be included in the agreement being negotiated with Kuwait.

Under the kafala or sponsorship system, the Arab sponsor-employer has the entire control over the mobility of the migrant worker.

“An OFW, for instance, cannot quit work or transfer jobs without first obtaining the consent of his employer, which practically places the OFW at the mercy of his employer,” the DOLE chief explained.

A team headed by Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad is currently in the Middle East to further assess the condition of Filipino workers and provide immediate response and assistance to their needs, as well as to recommend actions to deal with their situation.

Bello said that the report of the team would be a reliable basis for the amendment or enhancement of existing bilateral labor agreements with Arab countries in order to ensure further protection of OFWs.

“If there is an existing bilateral labor agreement but there are still rampant cases of maltreatment, then maybe we need to amend the agreement. The minimum demand of our President is that we will only deploy in countries where our workers are properly and effectively protected,” he added.

Meanwhile, Bello said that the deployment ban to Kuwait would continue despite the arrest of suspects in the case of Joana Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer last month. Ferdinand Patinio/PNA –