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POEA totally bans deployment of OFWs to Iraq

By: Krixia Subingsubing - Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 15,2020 - 12:36 PM

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) has imposed a total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Iraq, formalizing the government’s efforts to repatriate Filipinos amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran.

POEA Board Resolution No. 2020-2, issued on Jan. 14, formally bans the processing and deployment of all OFWs to Baghdad after the Department of Foreign Affairs raised the alert level in the whole of Iraq to level 4. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello signed the resolution on Jan. 8.

The POEA resolution followed the Department of Foreign Affairs’ marching orders for the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq last week, after several coordination meetings on the situation in the Middle East.

Iraq, which hosts several thousands of US troops, is feared to be used as a staging ground for the violent conflict raging between Washington and Tehran, after President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Tehran’s military architect, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

In retaliation, Iran bombed two US military bases in Iraq.

Iran, however, mistakenly shot down a commercial Ukrainian plane hours after its missile attacks on the US bases.

President Duterte has already ordered Environment Secretary and Middle East envoy Roy Cimatu to oversee the evacuation of Filipinos in the region.

Filipinos have been advised to coordinate with the embassy and their employers to secure their exit visas and plane tickets.

Calling the task a “sacred mission,”the President said he was willing to fly to the Middle East to aid in the repatriation efforts should the situation worsen.

“This is a sacred mission and it is really to safeguard the lives of the Filipino people. I tasked you this duty with a prayer and with a hope that you will carry out your mission successfully and that everybody will be safe,” he said.

He added: “I hope that this mission will succeed. Do not worry, I will be with you and if need be, I will go there myself if things get worse.”

He made the remarks as he led send-off rites for two Philippine Navy ships at Pier 13 at the Manila South Harbor on Tuesday.

The Navy’s BRP Davao del Sur and BRP Ramon Alcaraz will be deployed to the Middle East to help in the evacuation and repatriation of affected OFWs.

Last week, the Chief Executive ordered the mandatory repatriation of OFWs in Iraq amid brewing tension between the US and Iran.

Although the tension appeared to have deescalated, the Philippines said it would still push through with the mandatory evacuation.—With a report from Julie M. Aurelio

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