THE Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) has ordered the suspension of the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Qatar effective Tuesday, June 6, as it would be assessing the situation in the host country.

"Effective today (June 6), we have ordered the suspension of deployment of OFW in Qatar. This is for us to assess the situation because there are so many wild rumors going around," said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in a press conference held at the agency's main office in Intramuros, Manila.

"Kasi we are foreseeing possible problem in Qatar. Like for example we know for a fact Qatar does not produce its own food. If anything happens and they ran out of food and food riots take place, definitely, our OFWs will be the first victims. Kaya kailangan lang may preparatory measures to meet the possible exigency," he added.

At the same time, he denied rumors of food riots there based on the report of the labor attaché there.

"Although late last night and early this morning I was able to talk to our labor attache Dec Dicang and he informed me that there are no food riots yet as rumors being spread around. Although I told him that as a preparatory measure, we should advise our OFWs in Qatar and our Polo office to start making stock of food provisions," Bello said.

He noted that those who are covered by the suspension are newly hired and returning Filipino workers.

"We stopped all processing and even those who were scheduled to go. Sorry, but we have to suspend first the deployment," the Dole chief explained.

With this, he asked the local recruitment companies to coordinate with their counterparts in the Arab state to ensure that the Filipino workers will be protected in case something happens there.

Based on Dole figures as of last year, there are 141,000 documented OFWs in Qatar. The employed Filipinos there are both skilled and semi-skilled workers such as technicians, engineers, and nurses, among others.

Asked if there is a need to repatriate workers at this time, Bello said they will study it.

"We still have to study the situation, but even before this time we have been sending some augmentation team not only to Qatar but also to the other Middle East countries to meet any possible incidents."

He noted that the length of suspension will depend on the assessment they will be conducting there. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)