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PHL partially lifts suspension of OFW deployment to Qatar

The Philippine government on Wednesday partially lifted its suspension of deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Qatar, a day after it was implemented.

The partial lifting of the suspension was announced by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in a press conference in Manila.

According to Bello, those allowed to leave for Qatar are returning workers or balik-manggagawa and newly-hired workers with Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

The deployment of newly-hired OFWs who are yet to be processed and have not been issued OECs, however, is held in abeyance until further assessment is made.

"Kung Balik Manggagawa, dapat paalisin. Dapat nakaalis sila. Kung may OEC na rin, makakaalis na rin. Ang hindi lang muna makakalakad ay 'yung may mga pending application pa lang na hindi pa kumpleto," Bello said.

"Kung wala pa silang OEC, wala munang action," he added.

Bello said some 300 OFWs were allowed to fly to Qatar earlier on Wednesday.

"Pre-emptive ops"

The government implemented the suspension following the decision of several Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia to cut ties with Qatar over accusations that it supports extremist groups, including ISIS.

Bello said the suspension is "pre-emptive ops."

"Hindi natin alam, anytime na kung ano yung further developments. Kaya unti-unti nating ginagawan ng paraan," he said.

The decision to lift the suspension was reached early Wednesday by the crisis committee headed by Labor Undersecretary Dominador Say. The committee,  formed on Tuesday, is composed of representatives from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and three Labor assistant secretaries.

Gov't on top of situation

In an interview on Unang Balita on Wednesday, Say said the committee was formed in anticipation of possible repatriation of Filipinos in Qatar.

Say assured Filipinos in Qatar thata the government is "on top of the situation."
He also allayed fears of families of Filipinos working and living in Qatar, saying the situation in the Middle Eastern country remains normal.

Say's committee analyzed reports submitted by the Philippine labor attache in DOHA and Philippine Ambassador to Qatar Alan Timbayan, and a note from Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano stating that the situation in Qatar is normal.

Requests from Qatari officials to lift the moratorium also influenced their decision.

"That's the long and short of it, kung maari ay i-lift na to maintain friendly relations between our country and their country," Bello said.

Safety of OFWs in Qatar assured

In return, the Qatari government ensured the protection of Filipinos in the state.

"Hundred and one percent yung kanyang assurance. They guarantee the safety of our OFWs, that there will be no food shortage," Bello said.

The Philippine government has already tasked recruitment agencies in the Philippines to ensure the safety of the OFWs they deployed through their counterparts in Qatar. —KBK, GMA News