Open Letter to the Filipino Public and Government Officials

Open Letter to the Filipino Public and Government Officials

 

We are publishing this letter to educate the Filipino people and government officials on why it is imperative that the 5000+ OFWs working in Afghanistan should continue to work past the imposed 31 December 2011.

The employment ban in Afghanistan was imposed as a result of the kidnapping by the Taliban of Angelito Nayan in October 2004. Nayan was a Filipino diplomat at the time, working with the United Nations to monitor elections in Afghanistan. His kidnapping, similar to that of Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz in Iraq a few months earlier, grabbed the attention of Filipinos. He was subsequently released.

The POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 08 Series of 2007 which was issued on December 17, 2007 imposed total ban on the processing and deployment of Filipino workers not only for Afghanistan but also for Nigeria, Iraq and Lebanon. The issuance of the ban was consistent with the provision of Section 5 of Republic Act No. 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, which “authorizes the government… when the public welfare so requires, to at any point impose a ban on the deployment of migrant workers.”

In September 2010, the U.S. Army issued a memorandum stating that all contractors in Afghanistan employing individuals from countries whose domestic laws prohibit their citizens from working in Afghanistan will not be hired. The policy stated that contingency contractor personnel must comply with applicable host nation (HN) and third country national (TCN) laws. Furthermore, the policy states that contractors in violation of TCN laws should immediately make plans to repatriate these individuals.

Immediately after the U.S. Army memo was issued, the Filipinos in Afghanistan (FIA), an informal group of OFWs sent two petition letters to President Aquino. In late January to early February, the DFA assessment team consisting of General Roy Cimatu, Ambassador Ricardo Endaya and Supervising Officer Melvin Almonguera was sent to Afghanistan in to see the security and living conditions of OFWs. The team spent a week visiting Filipinos in Bagram Air Field, Kandahar Air Field, and Kabul Green Zone. They were also able to meet with the employers and were told time and again about the great value the Filipino workers bring to the companies.

On February 11, 2011, the Philippine Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan which has jurisdiction over Afghanistan issued its own memo informing the contractors/subcontractors, non-governmental entities, and private agencies that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines has decided to exempt Filipino nationals employed inside US/NATO military bases and who are working on US-sponsored projects in Afghanistan from the current travel/deployment ban to allow said Filipino nationals to finish their contracts until 31 December 2011.

Comes to the fore the question on why OFWs in Iraq, proven to be more dangerous, are allowed to work until their contracts expire or when the American military leaves which basically translates to being indefinite?. The Filipinos in Afghanistan were very thankful for being given extension and to be able to continue working in Afghanistan until the end of 2011. But why did the government set a deadline of 31 December 2011 instead of following the same formula for Iraq?

Philippine government officials cite Afghanistans’s insecurity as the reason for the government’s inaction in lifting the ban when in fact, most of the more than 5000 OFWs work inside U.S and NATO bases in Afghanistan where security and safety protocols and measures is the number one priority.

To date there has only been one kidnapping of a Filipino recorded in Afghanistan. Angelito Nayan was kidnapped in 2004 – not because he is a Filipino. He was in the company of other U.N. workers when the unfortunate event happened. In the Philippines, there is constant threat of kidnappings not only of foreigners but also of Filipinos. Most recently, a naturalized American woman and her son, and nephew were abducted at a resort near Zamboanga City.

According to the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, while some Filipino seamen have been released by the Somali pirates, to date there had been hundreds captured together with other seamen from other countries. So far, there is no ban imposed on Filipino seamen.

The only war-related death recorded in Afghanistan was when a Filipina together with four other UN workers in Kabul were killed when their guesthouse was attacked in 2009. A helicopter crashed due to mechanical failure killed 10 Filipinos last year. Two Filipino pilots died when their cargo plane crashed the same year. Again, they did not die due to being Filipinos.

According to NationMaster.com, there were over 10,000 manslaughters and murders by firearms in the Philippines in 2010. Terrorist attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in the Philippines, including Manila. There are bus bombings, journalist killings, clashes between military and insurgent groups, political massacres, street crimes and robberies that often results in fatalities. Many Filipinos are injured or die from motor accidents from just crossing the streets to head on collisions due to unsafe roads and inexperienced/under trained drivers. Workers are hurt in the jobsite due to lack of safety gears and equipment. There are thousands of health-related deaths yearly.

If government officials cite Afghanistan’s insecure environment being the reason for the ban, shouldn’t we, all Filipinos, be banned from our own country due to the fact that there are much much more Filipinos hurt and killed in the Philippines than in Afghanistan?

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Congressmen, Senators, DFA, DOLE, we are appealing to you now to fully understand the situation in Afghanistan. Working in Afghanistan was our choice. We went to this country despite the deployment ban because the jobs in Afghanistan offer so many opportunities for us to improve our standards of living, enable us to fulfill our dreams, put a roof over our heads, send our children to good schools, and save the money that we earn in Philippine banks.

Mr. President, this is our last appeal to you. These last few months, thousands of our countrymen have been given termination notices stating they only have 3-5 months of work. Unless the Philippine government acts decisively with haste, we will see the exodus of more than 5000 Filipinos going home by December 2011 – jobless, disheartened, discouraged and disappointed that your government failed to support them in this time of need.

Mahirap po tanggapin na kami ay babalik sa Pilipinas na walang hanapbuhay na maaaring ikakagutom ng aming pamilya. Ito ay dahil sa isang travel ban na hindi binibigyang pansin ang karapatan ng bawat Pilipino na lumakbay sa ibang bayan upang makahanap ng hanapbuhay na hindi kayang ibigay sa sarili niyang bayan.
Tulad po ninyo, ibig rin naming dalawin ang aming mga pamilya at mahal sa buhay paminsan minsan na walang takot na hindi makabalik sa trabahong bumubuhay sa amin. Sana po matigil na ang mga pang aabusong nangyayari sa airport dulot ng isang papel na kumikitil sa aming katungkulan na buhayin ang aming pamilya sa marangal at wastong paraan.

Ibig po naming mabuhay na marangal at hindi tinatrato na katulad ng isang kriminal sa airport sa dahilang kami ay nagsisikap, nag titiyagang mangingibang bayan upang makatulong sa aming pamilya at sa bayan.
Patuloy po kaming magbibigay dangal sa ating bansa sa pamamagitan ng marangal na trabaho saan man kami naroroon.

Naniniwala po kami na kayo ay naririto upang matugunan ang aming mga hinaing. Naniniwala po kami na kasama kayo sa laban naming ito. Naniniwala po kaming sa mga sumunod na mga araw ay dadating na rin ang liwanag na pinakahihintay naming lahat na naririto at nag hahanapbuhay sa Afghanistan.

Hindi po namin kailangan ang pagparangal. Simple lang po ang kahilingan namin. Sana po kilalanin naman ang mga contributions ng mga overseas Filipino workers by treating our personal choices and professional decisions with respect.

Thank you.

Respectfully yours,

Filipinos in Afghanistan (FIA)

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One response to this post.

  1. mr. president listen to the plight of the ofws

    Reply

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