LABOR and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz on Thursday ordered the Overseas Workers and Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to work together on the immediate and fast repatriation of all OFWs in civil strife-torn Egypt.
Baldoz’s directive follows the decision of the Governing Board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, of which she is Chairman, to impose a ban in the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to Egypt which recently has been wracked by political instability and mass protests that pose security risks for OFWs.
Under the ban, the deployment of new workers, as well as the return to Egypt of vacationing workers, spouses of Egyptian nationals, Islamic University students, and their dependents, is likewise suspended.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has raised the crisis alert level in Egypt to Crisis Alert Level 4 which requires mandatory repatriation of all Philippine nationals to the country.
Baldoz, in her order, said the POEA, led by Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, must coordinate with licensed overseas recruitment agencies that deployed the 1,540 OFWs to Egypt for the issuance of airline tickets to the OFWs within 48 hours. Most of the 1,540 OFWs in Egypt are domestic workers, nurses, hotel workers, production technicians, and skilled workers, such as stone setters. She also directed Administrator Cacdac to monitor insurance agencies who have insured the deployed OFWs.
“This should be immediate and fast,” said Baldoz, who further directed Administrator Cacdac to urge the licensed agencies to inform prospective OFWs about the deployment ban to Egypt.
“It is not safe for OFWs to go to Egypt and work there, considering the present circumstances,” she added.
In compliance with Baldoz’s directive, POEA Administrator Cacdac had scheduled a meeting today with 25 licensed recruitment agencies who had deployed the workers to Egypt. Administrator Carmelita Dimzon of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration will host the meeting at the OWWA on F. B. Harrison Street in Pasay City.
To facilitate the repatriation of OFWs from Egypt, Baldoz signed also yesterday the travel orders of Robert Bassig, presently welfare officer in the POLO in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and Welfare Officer Eduardo Mendoza, who is based in Manila, to immediately proceed to Cairo.
“In the exigency of the service and in view of the crisis situation in Egypt which necessitates the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in that country, you are instructed to proceed immediately to Cairo, Egypt, to assist in the repatriation efforts of the government,” Baldoz said in her order.
Baldoz further instructed Dimzon to ready the package of assistance under the National Reintegration Program for OFWs, particularly livelihood and job referral assistance, temporary shelter, medical care, and counseling.
“The same goes true with the non-OWWA members. Livelihood starter kits should already be handed out to these OFWs,” Baldoz emphasized.
The labor and employment chief last week ordered the on-site implementation of the Balik-Pinay Balik Hanapbuhay Project, with priority for the 777 distressed OFWs sheltered at the Migrant Workers and Other Filipinos Resource Centers, or Bahay Kalinga in various Middle East countries. Already, 44 of these OFWs have been repatriated from Kuwait. PNA