Luigi Evangelista, DOLE Palawan Chief Labor and Employment Officer during Kapihan sa PIA on Thursday

Deployment of overseas workers in the Middle East, including Palaweños, has been temporarily suspended by the Philippine government, said an official of the local Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) office.

DOLE Palawan office chief Luigi Evangelista said Thursday in a Kapihan hosted by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) that the order was in light of tension in the Middle East.

“Hold muna ang deployment sa malalapit na bansa. Unang-una, automatic ay stop ang deployment sa Iran at Iraq. Dahil nga tina-target ayon sa news na bombahin ang United Arab Emirates (UAE) — may initial instruction na medyo hold muna ang deployment sa area na ‘yan,” he said.

Evangelista said the suspension of deployment is for the good of those who will not be able to leave as tension continues in the transcontinental region after the U.S. assassinated top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020.

Although they still have no idea how many Palaweños are currently working in countries in the Middle East, Evangelista said he has already ordered his personnel to check this with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

“Actually, kanina isa ‘yan sa pinapatingnan sa OWWA officer natin dito. I-che-check pa lang natin ang data kung ilan ba talaga ang taga-Palawan na nasa Middle East. Not necessarily na Iran lamang, o Iraq, kasi magkakatabing bansa. Sa nagyon ay wala pa kaming data, i-che-check pa lang ‘yan online sa database ng OWWA,” he said.

Evangelista said that based on the initial information of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Filipinos working in Iran, Iraq, UAE, and Kuwait are told to prepare for mandatory repatriation.

He said the only challenge is there are Filipino workers in the Middle East who have no contact because they entered as tourists.

“Ang problema lang ay ‘yong walang contact, lalo na sa UAE na ‘yong mga pumupunta doon ay mga tourist. Open country ang UAE, ang problema ay papaano maco-contact ‘yong mga dumating doon na ‘di nag-report o hindi nagbigay ng information nila sa embassy, ‘yon ang isang magiging problema,” he said.

Evangelista said that the government would assist OFWs, including Palaweños, that would be repatriated with livelihood support and training for next employment through OWWA and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) so they can apply in other countries that are not affected by war.

“Although hindi mapapantayan ng gobyerno yong kinikita nila doon subalit hindi rin naman sila pababayaan. Based on my experience, ang mga nari-repatriate ay mayroon naman nakalaan na initially pwede sila mabigyan ng livelihood assistance o kaya naman ay pwede sila mag-further training,” he said.