DoLE halts deployment of workers to Qatar


LABOR Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension in the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Qatar following the decision of neighboring Gulf countries to cut off diplomatic ties over the former’s alleged support for terrorists.

The crisis has forced flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to stop transporting Qataris to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and UAE citizens to Qatar, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to review its projection of 4 percent growth in OFW remittances this year.

The suspension of deployment was the first ever enforced by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), even in the absence of a travel warning from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“We are foreseeing possible problems in Qatar like food shortage. It (Qatar) does not produce food and our OFWs are the first victims. We need to prepare to meet the exigencies,” Bello said in a news conference.

The Cabinet official said the suspension order covers the processing of work documents of OFWs bound for Qatar. “This is for their own good,” Bello said.

He stressed, however, that there was no cause for alarm or a need for the immediate repatriation of OFWs, based on an advisory by the Philippine labor attaché in Qatar.

There are 141,000 documented OFWs in Qatar, Bello said. The number goes beyond 200,000 if undocumented workers are included.

A Filipino supermarket worker in Qatar said in a radio interview there had been panic buying as a result of the diplomatic crisis.

Supermarket shelves are empty and it was uncertain how stocks could be replenished because supplies come from Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the UAE, Yemen and the Maldives broke off relations with Qatar on Monday over its alleged support to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

Bello advised all OFWs in Qatar to remain calm but cautious.

“Our labor office in Qatar is ready to extend any form of assistance given the circumstances may require…Our [labor office]is open on 24-hour service for any emergency situation,” he said.

Bello also said OFWs should not worry as the Philippines maintains good diplomatic relations with Qatar.

“I was invited by the minister of labor of Qatar this September [to discuss]the secure and more lenient processing of deployment of our migrant workers. They said they prefer more Filipino workers. And we maintain good labor relations for the welfare and security of our OFWs,” Bello said.

Bello said he would sign labor agreements on the social protection and security of OFWs.

Malacañang vowed to extend assistance to OFWs who would be affected by the diplomatic crisis.

In a statement, the DFA expressed concern over the recent events in the Gulf region and “hopes that all concerned parties will be able to resolve issues peacefully.”

Lucio Tan-owned flag carrier PAL on Tuesday said that it won’t carry Qataris to the UAE, while UAE nationals won’t be allowed to board for Doha, Qatar as a result of the diplomatic row.

PAL however stressed that all its flights to the Middle East would continue to operate.

The airline operates 30 flights per week to the Middle East (seven times weekly to Dubai; four times weekly to Kuwait; four times weekly to Doha; five times weekly to Dammam; three times weekly to Jeddah, and seven times weekly to Riyadh.)

Cielo Villaluna, PAL spokeswoman, said that “while PAL is not a party to the dispute and maintains strong bilateral ties to these countries, it shall observe guidelines issued by said nations.”

Also on Tuesday, the central bank said it would review its 4-percent growth projection for OFW remittances this year to take into account the impact of the diplomatic crisis in Qatar.

“We’ll have to review the projections if that’s the case, and we’ll have to look at the potential impact on the remittances if indeed the deployment of workers is going to go down. We don’t know how long it will last, it’s hard to say at this point,” outgoing BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. told reporters.

For incoming BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr., any disturbance in the Middle East is a source of concern for the central bank as there are many overseas Filipinos working there.

Espenilla, nevertheless, said there were previous incidents in the Middle East, including war, that did not significantly impede the flow of remittances.

“So it is very premature to draw any conclusion to a news that is just unfolding,” he said.

Latest data from the BSP showed that remittances in the first quarter of 2017 reached $7.70 billion, up 8.1 percent from $7.13 billion a year earlier. Qatar was one of the major sources of cash remittances during the period.



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  1. Prinze Fisher on

    I think such move of DoLE is shortsighted and irresponsible. It is giving a very bad impression to Qatar. We, as workers here in Qatar, can say it’s normal here. We haven’t experience shortage of food whatsoever. Qatar is a very peaceful country and its glorius image should not be tarnished at all by fake and exaggerated news.

  2. It is TOTALLY WRONG, VERY WRONG, this decision of Sec. Bello to stop OFW coming to Qatar.
    Sec, Bello has belittled the capability of Qatar govt. The Qatar govt. has stated that it will take care of the needs of their citizens and expatriates.
    Air and sea routes are open to import/export goods. Are the Phil govt officials not listening to Qatar authorities?
    Pres. Duterte and you Sec. Bello were here a month ago. Pres. Duterte promised Qatar Emir Al Thani that he will assist and support Qatar in any emergency situations if needed. Now the Phil govt is abandoning this statement.
    Qatar is the richest nation in the world with a per capital income higher than any county.
    This rift had happened before. It is a misunderstanding between brother nations of GCC.
    It is a big privilege for us Philippines that Qatar is hosting 250,000 OFW on this side of the world.
    Please listen to the OFWs who are based here in Qatar. Listen to the assurance extended by the Qatari government.
    We are safe here and working NORMALLY, now on Ramadan working hours. Let them the GCC brother governments settle their rifts.