Philippines halts overseas workers amid Qatar crisis

Philippines halts overseas workers amid Qatar crisis”

The Philippine government temporarily suspended the deployment of Filipino workers to Qatar on Tuesday, fearing food riots and other potential problems amid the diplomatic crisis gripping the tiny Gulf nation, the labor secretary said.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Yemen and Libya broke off relations with Qatar on accusation that it is supporting terrorist groups.

Qatar has denied the allegations, saying it did not support terrorism and that the claims were "baseless".

"We know for a fact Qatar does not produce it own food".

She said the labor department's move to suspend the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to Qatar caught OFWs and other stakeholders by surprise.

"No one else is more knowledgeable about the prevailing conditions in Qatar other than our own OFWs who have been quietly living and working there for several years".

The Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs says about 220,000 Filipinos are workers in Doha alone, of which 128,000 were deployed to the kingdom a year ago.

"We are foreseeing a possible problem in Qatar", Bello said at a news conference.

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In a press briefing on Wednesday, Bello said DOLE's Crisis Committee made a decision to lift the deployment suspension for OFWs who are just returning to Qatar and those who already have an overseas employment certificate (OEC) issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

The Philippine Embassy in Qatar has released a statement advising Filipinos in the country to remain calm and exercise prudence while monitoring the situation in the country.

"That's why we really need to make preparatory measures to meet a possible exigency", Bello said, referring to Qatar's dependence on food imports.

The labor chief added that contingency plans are already in place in Qatar in case tensions rise and there would be a need to repatriate Filipino workers.

Millions of Philippine citizens work overseas as domestic helpers, ship crew, construction workers and nurses among other jobs.

He also visited Qatar and Bahrain during the trip.

Also on Tuesday, the central bank said it would review its 4-percent growth projection for OFW remittances this year to take into account the impact of the diplomatic crisis in Qatar.

"The government renews its call for our Kababayans in the region to exercise prudence given the events of the past days and reiterates its readiness to provide all necessary assistance as it remains committed to safeguarding the welfare of overseas Filipinos in the region", it said.

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