Taking chances

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By Dennis Limlingan

The Advocate

Monday, August 11, 2014


THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and even the national government in general is aware of the fact that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in war-torn Libya and even in Ebola-stricken countries are just adamant to come home to our country despite their perilous situation in the said territories.

They would rather take chances in other countries rather than go back to the Philippines and would starve because of the lack of opportunity to earn here to feed themselves and their families.

More than 11,000 OFWs opt to take chances of surviving war and diseases rather than return to the country jobless.

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As usual, the opportunity to get employed here is so slim that our fellow Filipinos would always want to go outside the country to get jobs and be paid in foreign currencies. Meanwhile, there are job opportunities here but those that are employed are usually underpaid.

Employment and underemployment remains to be two of the major problems of the country with the government remaining to be unresponsive to these concerns.

While the growing unrest in Libya is getting more intense, OFWs would rather face the risk rather than face uncertainty if they come home. The said country is facing conflict because of political differences and struggle for leadership and power.

Other countries such as Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia on the other hand, are being threatened by the Ebola virus wherein less than a thousand people have already died because of the disease.

Calls for the government from various sectors for the former to provide permanent jobs here in the country for our OFWs have become louder as prompted perhaps by the dangerous plight of Filipinos in Libya and the western African countries with Ebola virus infections.

At present, Filipinos working abroad are shrugging off the advice of the national government for them to return to the Philippines. They even tell Philippine authorities that they are always safe to where they stay or work.

The DFA recently raised crisis Alert Level 2 or restriction phase which means that no new workers will be allowed to go to the three African countries, except those who are labeled as “balik-manggagawa.”

To date, information from the said office showed that about 880 Filipinos are in Guinea, 1,979 in Sierra Leone and 632 in Liberia, including the 148 Filipino UN Peacekeeping Force.

As per Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s (POEA) records, there are 72 Filipino workers in Guinea, 398 in Sierra Leone, and 202 in Liberia. These OFWs are working in the oil sector of West Africa.

Despite the risks of being caught in the war in Libya and getting infected with the virus, Filipino workers would simply ignore the calls for them to return to the country for their safety.

The call for the OFWs and their dependent to leave Libya heightened after a Filipino construction worker was beheaded a few weeks ago and a nurse was abducted and gang-raped amid the escalating violence.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), meantime, expressed readiness in addressing the welfare, employment, livelihood, and legal needs of OFW repatriates through its Assist WELL Program, a component of the National Reintegration Program for OFWs.

It’s a choice for our OFWs between the devil and the deep blue sea. Apparently however, they would rather swim in other countries rather than sink in poverty here in the country due to the lack of employment opportunities.

***

For any comments, ideas, suggestions or opinions, text or call The Advocate at 09213636360 or send email at dencious@yahoo.com.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 12, 2014.

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