Sen. Estrada calls for close monitoring of OFWs bound for Iraq
Estrada, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, is pushing for the initiation of talks for a bilateral labor agreement between the two countries and the eventual establishment of an overseas labor office in Baghdad.
“The Philippine diplomatic representation in Iraq should exercise due diligence on the background of Iraq-based companies employing our workers, conduct ocular inspection of the worksites and housing facilities, and ensure proper documentation of our migrant workers. Failure to do so may open Iraq market to human trafficking,” Estrada said in a news release on Friday.
Estrada also said the Philippine diplomatic post in Iraq should validate and assure that the job offers for Filipino workers are genuine and that the companies hiring them are reputable.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on Tuesday lifted the six-year ban on the deployment of OFWs to strife-torn Iraq.
The POEA's Governing Board Resolution No. 7 allowed the deployment of newly hired and rehired workers, excluding household service workers, for Iraq, except in some areas identified “no-go” zones.
The resolution was made after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that Iraq complies with the guarantees on the protection of the rights of foreign workers under Republic Act 10022.
In December 2007, POEA suspended the processing and deployment of all workers bound for Iraq and Afghanistan because of the unstable peace and order situation in the country.
POEA also imposed a total deployment ban on Iraq, except in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, in February 2012.
Estrada, said, “We welcome the reopening of this labor market for our workers, as domestic employment in the country remains dismal. However, we should not push our workers into war zones just so they can be employed.”
“The government must ensure their safety and protection at all times and should be ready with contingency and repatriation measures should violence erupt anew, not only in Iraq but for all other countries hosting our workers,” Estrada said in a statement on Friday.
Over 1,000 Iraqis killed in July
More than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in sectarian violence in July, the highest monthly death toll since 2008, the United Nations said on Thursday, as Sunni Islamist groups stepped up their insurgency against Iraq's Shi'ite-led government.
Accordingf to a Reuters report on Thursday, most of the 1,057 victims were civilians, killed in a relentless campaign of bombings and shootings that some Iraqis fear could drag the country into another war.
"We haven't seen such numbers in more than five years, when the blind rage of sectarian strife that inflicted such deep wounds upon this country was finally abating," Gyorgy Busztin, acting UN envoy to Iraq, said in a statement.
He called on Iraqi leaders to take immediate and decisive action to stop the "senseless bloodshed" and prevent a return to the "dark days" of 2006-07, when the number of people killed per month sometimes exceeded 3,000.
In recent years violence has fallen and a steady rise in oil production has made the country richer, but the conflict in neighbouring Syria has inflamed sectarian tensions across the region and invigorated Sunni insurgents in Iraq, including al Qaeda.
July's toll brought the number of people killed in militant attacks since the start of the year to 4,137.
The worst affected governorate was Baghdad, where 238 people were killed in July, followed by Salahuddin, Nineveh, Diyala, Kirkuk and Anbar.
Many of these provinces are dominated by the country's Sunni minority, which deeply resents Shi'ite ascendancy since the U.S.-led invasion that vanquished Saddam Hussein in 2003. Sunnis there have been holding anti-government protests for months.
Iraq's deteriorating security was highlighted last week when hundreds of convicts ran free after simultaneous attacks on two high-security prisons, raising questions about the ability of the security services to combat al Qaeda.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which was formed earlier this year in a merger between al Qaeda's affiliates in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the jail breaks. - with a report from Reuters/VVP, GMA News