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PH’s travel ban to Afghanistan “ineffective,” DFA officials say

By Jovic Yee

An OFW Journalism Consortium news flash exclusive

The Philippine government’s ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Afghanistan is “ineffective” as the number of OFWs going to the said country continues to swell, an official said.

Department of Foreign Affairs assistant secretary Ricardo Endaya admitted that the Philippine government has no control over Filipinos going to Afghanistan due to the “absence of available employment” in the Philippines.

Endaya believes that the ban should be lifted to give more opportunities to Filipino workers.

“In my opinion, the government must review its policy and think of ways to protect the interest of the Filipino workers there,” said Endaya, who is also executive director of the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs.

He added, however, that “the Philippine government must do something to protect the increasing number of workers (to Afghanistan).”

According to estimates, there are about 5,000 to 7,000 OFWs currently working in Afghanistan and the DFA believes that the number will double once the ban is lifted.

As a result of the ban, which is also in effect in five more war-torn countries, Malacañang is only allowing OFWs working at a number of US bases in Afghanistan only up to end of the year. The said measure will affect an estimated 5,000 Filipino workers.

The said workers, meanwhile, will ask President Aquino to lift the ban for them to continue their work. In return, the OFWs are willing to sign a waiver of their protection rights and pay additional taxes to the Philippine government, if necessary.

According to Endaya’s estimates, workers can earn around $1,000 to $3,000, and some even earn up to $40,000.

“All we ask from the government is to allow us to work and lift the ban, if not, extend the deadline. They [employers] are willing to hire Filipinos because one Filipino worker is equivalent to 10 migrant workers. They know our work ethic,” Junie Fernandez, a worker at Kandahar Air Force Base for four years, said.

“All [security and safety] measures are provided by the International Security Forces. As a matter of fact, the civilian to military ratio is one is to six,” Fernandez said.

“We need to review our policies to further ensure the safety of our workers,” Endaya said. A special mission to Afghanistan will be sent by the Philippine government to further assess the situation later this year. Source: http://www.ofwjournalism.net/article/exclusive/

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