By Samuel Medenilla
Amid the possibility of a food shortage in Qatar due to its diplomatic row with other Arab countries, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) temporarily suspended the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to the oil-rich country.
“Effective today, we have ordered the suspension of deployment of OFWs in Qatar. This is for us to assess the situation because there are so many wild rumors going around,” Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced during an emergency press conference on Tuesday.
Bello said the ban will cover both new hires and those with existing employment contracts in Qatar.
He noted the ban will continue to be in effect until they complete their assessment on the safety of OFWs in Qatar in close coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“We have to assess the situation first before we can allow again the deployment of our migrant workers. This is for their own protection,” said Bello, seeking the understanding of the affected OFWs.
This is the first time, Bello said, the labor secretary, who also heads the governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), issued a deployment ban without the corresponding security alert advisory from DFA.
Bello, however, defended the unprecedented move stating it is part of his prerogative as the head of DOLE, especially since lives of OFWs in Qatar are at risk.
He said he has already ordered the labor attache to Qatar, David Des Dicang, to start storing food and medicine in anticipation of a possible shortage of basic necessities in Qatar.
“This is possible especially since Qatar does not have much food production,” Bello said.
But the labor chief clarified that as of Tuesday, Dicang reported that there are no food riots in Qatar as reported.
Read more: DOLE is ready to repatriate 200,000 in Qatar
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