Arroyo orders lifting of ban on Lebanon, Jordan  01/04/2009

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wants the government to resume sending overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Lebanon and Jordan following improved security and working conditions there, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced on Wednesday.

Ermita said the Palace was leaving it up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to decide the date when the ban would be lifted.

In his weekly briefing. Ermita also said the ban in Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria will remain due to the “unstable security conditions" in these countries.

Malacanang stopped sending OFWs to Afghanistan in 2001 following a US-led invasion on the war-ravaged central Asian country, while the OFWs were barred from entering Iraq in July 2004 after the kidnapping of Filipino driver Angelo dela Cruz by militants.

Manila stopped sending workers to Nigeria since January 2007 following the series of kidnapping of OFWs in the African country.

Ermita said the continued ban to Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria as well as the lifting of the deployment ban to Jordan and Lebanon was recommended by the DFA, which the President approved.

The President has directed the DOLE to coordinate with the DFA on the detail when to effect the lifting of the deployment ban.

“The President has approved the declaration… (to) lift the total deployment ban in view of the improved security conditions in Lebanon. This will be left to DOLE to give the recommendation to the DFA na talagang total lifted na sa Lebanon as well Jordan," he said.

The Philippines banned deployment to Lebanon in July 2006 due to the unstable security situation in the country following the conflict between the Hezbollah and Israeli forces. About 6,000 Filipino workers were repatriated back to the country then but more than 20,000 opted to remain.

The ban on the deployment to Jordan was declared by the Philippine in January 2008 due to the poor working conditions and abuses like unjust and unpaid wages and rape that were committed against Filipino workers especially those working as domestic helpers.

DFA and DOLE to decide date

Two hours after Ermita’s announcement, the DFA came out with a statement saying that the ban to the five countries would remain.

Ermita said the DFA statement does not run counter his pronouncement as the Palace order is for the DOLE and DFA to determine the date when the ban would be lifted.

Foreign Undersecretary for Migrants Workers’ Affairs Esteban B. Conejos, Jr., in a press release, enjoined the public to “respect the ban" as their main purpose for such order is to “keep away our overseas workers from harm and avoid further risks to their lives."

He confirmed that the lifting of the ban to Lebanon and Jordan had been considered due to “some progress in the conclusion of a bilateral labor cooperation agreement that will ensure the protection of the welfare of Filipino workers, specifically minimum wage, reasonable rest periods and decent working and living conditions".

Conejos said the Philippines is now coming closer" to the signing of the bilateral cooperation agreements with Lebanon and Jordan. - GMANews.TV