ILOILO City – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Western Visayas working in tension-filled Iran and Iraq are not keen on availing themselves of the government’s repatriation program. For now. They are on a “wait and see” mode, according to Jack Arroyo, case officer of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Region 6.
Tension has been gripping Iran and Iraq following the United States’ assassination of Iran’s top military general Qassem Soleimani who was visiting Iraq on Jan. 3.
“Nakita nila nga no need magpauli kay daw nag-subside naman ang tension. Wala nag-escalate so diretso sila sa trabaho,” said Arroyo.
He, however, stressed the government remains prepared to help all Filipinos in Iran, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries should the situation deteriorate.
In retaliation to the killing of its top general, Iran rained ballistic missiles on US military bases in Iraq on Jan. 8.
The US has opted not to respond militarily, somewhat defusing the tension and fear that the conflict could further escalate. But the concern remains. Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami issued a warning to the US on Friday. He said the missile attacks were “just a slap” and Iran was “prepared to give a powerful response to any adventurism.”
Arroyo also said the repatriation is voluntary so Filipinos in the volatile region could not be compelled to leave.
Thirty Western Visayans work in Iran and Iraq, OWWA data showed but there could also be undocumented Ilonggo workers there.
Arroyo said OFWs should always prioritize their safety.
“Indi puede pabuyan-buyanan naton,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the 24/7 inter-agency helpdesk of the Iloilo provincial government successfully facilitated the repatriation of an Ilonggo OFW from Qatar.
The household worker, whose name is being kept confidential, returned to the country on Jan. 17. She is from the municipality of Santa Barbara.
Arroyo said the OFW was a victim of maltreatment by her employer.
“We requested the Philippine Embassy to intervene in bringing her home. It was her agency who processed the repatriation,” Arroyo said.
Two more Ilonggo OFWs based in Lebanon are waiting for their schedule to return home. They are from San Miguel town and Mandurriao in Iloilo City.
Both work as household workers and are victims of illegal recruitment. Their relatives sought assistance of the helpdesk on Jan. 14.
Arroyo said they immediately referred the cases to the Philippine Embassy./PN