Gov’t urged to prepare contingency plan for OFWs in Qatar amid Gulf row

MANILA — A senator on Tuesday urged concerned government agencies to provide assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Qatar and neighboring countries amid ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East.

“With the ongoing tension in the Middle East, I urge the DFA, DOLE, OWWA, (Departments of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Philippine Overseas Labor Office) to prepare for any eventuality,” Sen. Nancy Binay said in a statement.

“The government is ready to extend help. Kailangan po nating tiyakin na laging ligtas at kalmado ang ating mga kababayan sa Qatar (We have to assure that our countrymen in Qatar are safe and calm),” she said.

Binay expressed concern that the ongoing row between Middle Eastern countries is a cause for concern for the thousands of OFWs there.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in 2016 showed that there are around 900,000 OFWs working in the Middle East. Meanwhile, around 130,000 OFWs work in Qatar.

The senator said that the government should coordinate with the Filipino community and organizations in Qatar on immediate action and possible evacuation in case the situation worsens.

She also called on non-government organizations (NGOs) helping OFWs to coordinate with the Philippine embassy in Doha, Qatar as well as the labor attaché in helping Filipinos living in the Middle Eastern state.

Meanwhile, Binay said that she trusts DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III in dealing with the situation and assured that the Senate is also ready to extend help and support.

“I’m confident that Sec. Bello can handle the situation in Qatar. He is assured that we in the Senate will extend all the support he would need to make sure that our kababayans in Qatar are safe, especially those who are near the borders,” Binay said. ANP/