THE Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment are eyeing a prolonged ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers in Iraq owing to security concerns of Filipinos working in that country.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said the department is in close coordination with the labor department to strictly carry out a total ban in the deployment of Filipino workers in Iraq.
Romulo said the ban is not likely to be lifted this year, because the situation remains unstable for workers in Iraq.
He advised OFWs in Iraq who want to come home immediately to seek the help of the Philippine Embassy there, and said the government would facilitate the negotiations with their employers and shoulder their airfare.
Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas reiterated that the government is not likely to lift the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers there anytime this year. “It does not look like the situation is improving. And I don’t think we can even think of lifting the ban in the remaining days of this year.”
She said the abduction of Robert Tarongoy in Baghdad was only one of several recent violent incidents that showed the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq is getting worse.
“I think the situation there is worsening. Only recently, no less than the vice governor was ambushed in Baghdad. And the area where the abduction took place was very near the green zone, which is supposedly well secured,” Santo Tomas said.
However, she said the latest abduction should make Filipino workers understand why the government has refused to lift the deployment ban in Iraq.
In July the government imposed a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers in Iraq, shortly after Iraqi militants abducted the truck driver Angelo de la Cruz on July 8.
Santo Tomas pointed out that Tarongoy’s abduction only shows that illegal recruiters have remained a step ahead of the government.
Citing reports reaching her office, she said Tarongoy left for Iraq through Bangkok. She said this is likely the case for other Filipino workers bound for Iraq.
“In many cases, the workers leave for Bangkok, then to Iraq via Dubai, Jordan or Turkey,” she said.
Tarongoy’s abduction worsened an already tense situation in Afghanistan where the Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan and two other United Nations workers were taken hostage.