The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) wants to ban me from working in this place:
What will happen to the hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) now deployed in some countries and territories after the POEA announced a deployment ban to 41 areas around the World?
An article from the Manila Standard Today:
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has banned Filipinos from working in 41 countries and US territories that have failed to protect foreign workers from abuse.
Included in the list are strife-torn nations such as Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Chad and Pakistan, according to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, chairman of the POEA governing board.
These countries don’t have agreements with the Philippines on the protection of the rights of Filipino workers, Baldoz said.
They do not have their own laws protecting foreign workers, she said.
The deployment ban is contained in the board’s resolution 7, which said existing contracts of Filipino companies will be honored…
… Also covered by the deployment ban are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Cuba, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), Dominica, East Timor (Timor Leste) Eritrea, Haiti, India, Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Republic) Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya (sic), Mali, Mauritania, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Palestine, Serbia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, US Virgin Islands, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.
The deployment ban is not expected to lead to a drop in workers’ remittances since these countries on the list are not the traditional markets for Filipino manpower, Labor officials said.
(See map showing 41 countries where the POEA bans the deployment of OFWs below.)
Although the ban is reasonable in the strife-torn countries enumerated above, and maybe justifiable in some, such as North Korea, Cuba, Eritrea, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Palestine, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, among others, the inclusion of the rest of the listed countries begets scrutiny. While it is true that most, if not all, of these countries are relatively poorer than the traditional markets for OFWs in the Middle East, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas, it is very clear that there is a distinct niche for Filipino workers and professionals in these countries.
If the only reasons considered for this deployment ban is that “these countries don’t have agreements with the Philippines on the protection of the rights of Filipino workers”, and that “they do not have their own laws protecting foreign workers”, then that reasons should be carefully studied.
There are a lot of countries that have “laws” protecting foreign workers and have agreements with the Philippines, but some of these countries, even the bigger traditional markets for OFWs, are ironically the biggest violators of the rights of all foreign workers, not just Filipinos. Think about contract substitutions. Think about extended working hours and two-year mandatory contracts. Think about virtual slavery for domestic workers, inhumane living conditions and sexual assaults. Think about being treated as third, even fourth class individuals in those countries.
Only a few countries come to mind when we talk about all of these violations of the OFW’s rights. And they all have “their own laws protecting foreign workers” and they “have agreements with the Philippines on the protection of the rights of Filipino workers”.
It is clear then, that laws and agreements on the protection of Filipino workers abroad are not guarantees of their protection from abuse. In most cases, those laws and agreements are mere “formalities” for the continued slavery of our workers in those countries.
On the contrary, some of the countries in POEA’s ban list can be considered as heaven for the OFW. Countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Dominica, Haiti, Montenegro, Nauru, Serbia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, US Virgin Islands and Vanuatu can be considered as dream destinations for some OFWs not fortunate enough to work in the bigger markets. There, they are treated as equals. Their rights as workers and as individuals are recognized and respected. And they work according to established labor laws, even if the host countries don’t have “their own laws protecting foreign workers” and they don’t “have agreements with the Philippines on the protection of the rights of Filipino workers”.
So, who’s protecting and who’s abusing the OFW? Is it the country with an agreement with the Philippines, but never abides by it? Or is it the country without an agreement, but respects the OFW as they would respect any other person? The answer is as clear as the waters of the Caribbean Sea.
The POEA should immediately review its board resolution imposing the ban for OFW deployment to 41 countries and territories. And it should immediately lift/withdraw this ban to some countries, as enumerated above.