(Photo courtesy of PH Embassy in Lebanon Facebook)

MANILA – A labor official dismissed proposals to lift the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers in some parts of the Middle East, saying it may be “unwise” to do so at this time.

Labor Attaché Alejandro Padaen of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Lebanon said in a news release on Sunday that officials should first consult with people on the ground and carefully study the situation in destination countries before policy pronouncements are made.

Abdullah Mama-o, newly appointed secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers, is eyeing the lifting of suspension on the deployment of newly hired skilled and household service workers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, including Libya and Iraq.

Citing Lebanon, Padaen said the country is yet to recover from the political and economic turmoil, and has yet to conclude an agreement on a standard contract, especially those covering domestic workers.

“Considering the economic aspect, it may not be the right time yet to deploy new hires in Lebanon. Several companies have closed down and we have not been deploying household service workers since 2007,” Padaen said in a recent virtual media briefing.

“The Balik Manggagawa (Returning Workers) program that we process are those who have relatives here and have come through informal channels. It will be better if we assess first and study the situation before we start deploying again,” he added.

In January 2020, the Department of Foreign Affairs raised the Alert Level in Lebanon from 1 (Precautionary Phase) to 2 (Restriction Phase).

Filipino workers with existing contracts and are registered under the Balik Manggagawa program are allowed return to Lebanon.

Accordingly, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has issued Governing Board Resolution No. 08, series of 2020, which suspends the processing and deployment of newly-hired workers bound for Lebanon, including crew changes, embarkation, disembarkation, and shore leaves for seafarers.

Padaen suggested the finalization of the Standard Employment Contract for Domestic Workers pending the agreement between the Philippine and Lebanese governments.

“Negotiations stopped in 2012 and have not pushed forward since then,” he added.

Padaen said that there are 17,000 to 19,000 Filipinos in Lebanon as of June 2021, but the numbers may be lesser now due to ongoing repatriation efforts.

The latest batch was repatriated last month, among them POLO shelter wards who have not received enough salaries or were not receiving their salaries on time.

Padaen said the POLO continues to process job orders for its other jurisdictions, such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Northern Cyprus.

He said the employment prospects in Turkey look favorable, especially when the Covid-19 situation improves. 

Demand is high for household service workers (HSWs) in Turkey and the POLO has already accredited 11 foreign recruitment agencies.

The salary of an HSW is at USD800 (about PHP41,000) per month, which is almost double the salary in other countries.

The POLO has also approved a job order for a large tuna factory in Turkey.

Meanwhile, Georgia and Azerbaijan are open for workers in the oil and gas sector and Northern Cyprus in the tourism sector. (PR)