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Pinoy Abroad

US bases in Afghanistan 'magnet' for OFWs

August 26, 2009 7:08pm
OFF-LIMITS TO PINOYS


Due to desperation, thousands of Filipino workers sneak into these countries using fake documents.

Afghanistan

A total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers in Afghanistan took effect in 2007.

Iraq

OFWs were prohibited from going to Iraq in 2004 after a series of suicide bomb attacks and the abduction of Filipino truck driver Angelo Dela Cruz.

Jordan

Reports of widespread abuses against Filipino workers prompted the government to stop sending OFWs there in January 2008.

Lebanon

Following the war between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in 2006, Filipino workers were barred from entering Lebanon in June 2007.

Nigeria

Deployment ban in this African country was implemented in December 2007 due to kidnappings and civil unrest in the Niger Delta.

- GMANews.TV
Despite the existing deployment ban on Afghanistan, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will continue to flock the Central Asian country because of the construction of American bases there, a recruitment consultant said Wednesday.

"OFWs will still be attracted or enticed to work in Afghanistan (because of) the upbeat work in US bases with the high pay and insurance benefits," said recruitment industry consultant Emmanuel Geslani.

In an interview with GMANews.TV, Geslani said that US-operated facilities usually give its employees $1,200 or more than P58,000 a month compared to the $400 or P19,000 they get in non-US companies.

"The government can only watch helplessly as more OFWs will stream into Afghanistan attracted by the high pay," he said.

More job openings

Geslani said this trend will continue as companies like Texas-based engineering and construction company Fluor Corporation forge more contracts with the US Army.

He said the US Army’s $7-billion project with Fluor Corp. will involve the management of operations such as power, food service, and transportation for 62 bases in Afghanistan as well as building and managing operations for 12 more bases.

Fluor is reportedly building eight major operating bases known as forward operating bases (FOB) in southern Afghanistan in support of the new troop commitments ordered by US President Barack Obama.

Geslani said FOBs are typically made of prefabricated buildings for dining, barracks, headquarters, recreation, and training.

Hundreds of jobs like carpenters, electricians, plumbers, water maintenance, vehicle maintenance, training specialist, utilities manager, IT, food services, vector specialist, laundry managers, housing supervisors, etc. are expected to be made available because of these FOBs.

“Expect more Filipinos especially those with experience in the former US bases in the country and their children to be working inside those US bases," said Geslani.

Fluor Corp. is the same company that sub-contracted the Russian helicopter that crashed last month at a NATO airbase in Kandahar, Afghanistan, killing 16 passengers, including 10 Filipinos, that it was carrying to the jobsite of their employer AIM Group. [See: 10 Pinoys killed in Afghan chopper crash]

Following the ban

Like the 10 crash victims, many Filipino workers start working in places like Kuwait and Dubai but somehow end up in Iraq and Afghanistan, where US troops and allies are fighting local rebels.

Following the accident, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) renewed its warning to aspiring OFWs to be “discerning" in pursuing employment in destinations that have been declared off-limits by the Philippine government. [See: 'Think twice before taking jobs abroad']

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said workers should be aware of the risks of venturing into areas that have been declared off limits due to prevailing hazardous conditions. Aside from Afghanistan, OFWs are also forbidden to work in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Nigeria.<

Roque said the issuance of the ban was consistent with the provision of Section 5 of Republic Act No. 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, which “authorizes the government ... when the public welfare so requires, to at any point impose a ban on the deployment of migrant workers."

The ban on Afghanistan took effect Dec. 17, 2007, upon the recommendation of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Geslani said, however, that many OFWs would not mind the supposed dangers of working there and instead find more ways to go around the ban.

“It would be hard to tighten the ban, people would always find ways to go around it, escort services are also still going on," he said. - GMANews.TV