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DOLE suspends OFW deployment to Qatar

Amid the possibility of a food shortage in Qatar due its diplomatic row with other Arab countries, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has temporary suspended the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the oil-rich country.

“Effective today, 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,” Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced during an emergency press conference yesterday.

Bello said the ban will cover both new hires and those with existing employment contracts in Qatar.

He noted the ban will continue to take effect until they complete their assessment on the safety of OFWs in Qatar in close coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“We have to assess the situation first before we could allow again the deployment of our migrant workers. This is for their own protection,” said Bello.

It marks the first time that DoLE issued a deployment ban without the corresponding advisory from DFA.

Bello, however, defended the unprecedented move stating it is part of his prerogative as the head of DoLE, especially since lives of OFWs in Qatar are at risk.

He said he has already ordered the labor attache to Qatar Des Dicang to start storing food and medicine in anticipation of a possible shortage of basic necessities in Qatar.

“This is possible especially since Qatar does not produce its own food supply,” Bello said.

Meanwhile, Labor undersecretary Dominador Say said they are ready to repatriate the estimated 200,000 OFWs, who may be affected by Qatar’s diplomatic row with major Arab states.

Around 141,000 of the OFWs are documented. Most of them are skilled and semiskilled workers like engineers and nurses.

Say, however, stressed that the measure is not necessary for now since their Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Qatar has yet to monitor any threat to OFWs there. (SAMUEL MEDENILLA)