Manila: The Philippines announced that it has imposed a total ban on sending Filipino workers to Iraq in anticipation of a surge in violence following the withdrawal of US forces in the country.
Labour Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldo said that a ban has been imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (Poea) on sending Filipinos to Iraq in anticipation of an increase in the level of violence in the country.
"The Poea Governing Board has issued the resolution after the Office of the President has approved the recommendation of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raising the Alert Level in Iraq from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 3," Baldoz said in a statement.
Baldoz chairs the governing board of the Poea, the government agency in charge of regulating and enforcing the country's undeclared labour export policy.
Under the DFA and Poea-observed threat assessment warning system, Alert Level 2 means the imposition of certain restrictions on working in a certain host country. Alert Level 3 means that a deployment ban is being enforced.
"The recommendation was in view of the expected surge of terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq following the withdrawal of US military forces last December 2011," Baldoz added.
However, Baldoz added that while a total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers is being observed in all of Iraq, the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region is not covered by the restriction.
"The resolution imposes a total ban on OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) to Iraq but allows deployment to Kurdistan subject to Poea rules and regulations," Baldoz said.
In 2007, the Poea suspended the processing and deployment of all OFWs bound for Iraq (and Afghanistan) due to the unstable peace and order situation in those countries.
Then on September 2, 2011, the Poea, through Governing Board Resolution No. 5 Series of 2011, allowed those with existing contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan and working inside American military camps and facilities to finish their contracts and to extend or renew these contracts onsite. The resolution also allowed covered workers to be redeployed to finish their contracts should they go home to the Philippines before their contracts' expiration.
"The ban will stay until such time that it has been determined that the security condition has normalized, after due consultation with the DFA," Baldoz explained.
The imposition of a total deployment ban is recommended for countries placed under Alert Level 3.
In July 2004, the government of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was caught in a bind when militants abducted Angelo dela Cruz, a Filipino truck driver working for an American contractor.
Although Dela Cruz was eventually released and sent home, the Philippines had been extra-cautious in placing the lives of OFWs at risk.