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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Deploy to Iraq skilled OFWs only–Villafuerte

Only highly-skilled workers should be deployed to war-torn Iraq in the event that the three-year ban on the deployment of Filipino workers was lifted, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte made the statement after Ambassador Charlie Pacana Manangan, during a recent hearing by the bicameral Commission on Appointments on his posting to Iraq, said he would support the deployment of new Filipino workers there as requested by Baghdad only after the government has made a complete assessment of the situation in that country.

Top Filipino and Iraqi officials held a Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) in Manila last month—the first in 10 years—where Baghdad made a request for the Philippine government to lift its ban on the deployment of new migrant workers to the Middle East country.

The Department of Foreign Affairs reclassified Iraq three years ago from being a country with “Alert Level 4” status, or where Filipino workers are not allowed to go and those working there already are immediately evacuated or sent home, to “Level 3,” where only new hires are banned and those Filipinos working there already can leave or go home to the Philippines for vacation and return to their employers afterwards.

Asked by Villafuerte if he favors the lifting of the deployment ban, Manangan said: “My instinct will be ‘yes.’ (But) there would be a need for an intensive assessment (of the situation there at present).”

When Villafuerte inquired if it was “relatively safe already” to deploy workers to Iraq, the diplomat said: “As far as the reports that I have read from the embassy (are concerned), there are still some sporadic incidents but compared to the previous situation some years ago, it is relatively stable.”

Manangan said most OFWs who have been deployed to Iraq are employed as service workers of hotels, support staff for US military personnel, medical workers and oil workers, among others.

Asked if there were Filipino domestic helpers in Iraq, the ambassador said there were a few, and that “they do not constitute a big number or a majority (of our workers there).”

After the hearing, the CA confirmed the appointments of Manangan and two other diplomats along with 11 military officials.

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