Imee: OFW Safety Risks Beyond Iran And Iraq

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Senator Imee Marcos said the government may be caught flat-footed if it limits the scope of its contingency plans for evacuating OFWs to just Iran and Iraq.

Iran has vowed to retaliate against the United States and its Middle East allies, after a U.S. air strike Friday killed Iran’s top military commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq.

“Hindi dapat tayo nakatali lang sa kung anong magiging kalagayan ng ating mga kababayan sa Iran at Iraq lamang. Sa anumang gagawing hakbang ng ating pamahalaan, hindi ito dapat nakasentro lang sa Iran at Iraq. Mas dapat natin bigyang pansin ang magiging kaligtasan ng milyon nating kababayang OFWs sa buong Middle East,” Marcos said.

More than half of the total number of OFWs worldwide are based in the Middle East, with the majority or more than 500,000 working in Saudi Arabia, more than 300,000 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and more than 100,000 each in Qatar and Kuwait, according to a 2018 survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

More than 30,000 Filipinos have been recorded living in Israel, with fewer than 10,000 in Iran and Iraq combined.

“Nakaamba ngayon ang mga retaliatory attacks sa mga lugar kung saan naroroon at malakas ang pwersa ng Estados Unidos, at ang masaklap nito, naroroon din sa mga bansang iyon ang libo-libo nating mga OFWs,” Marcos added.

Marcos cited statistics from the International Crisis Group and the Federation of American Scientists that estimate the numbers of American troops in the Middle East at 13,000 each in Kuwait and Qatar; 6,000 in Iraq; and 5,000 and 3,000 in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, respectively.

“Bigyan din natin ng pansin ang ating mga Filipino seafarers na nagtatrabaho sa mga oil tankers, hindi lang ang mga land-based OFWs, dahil ang tension na nangyayari sa Middle East ay may kaugnayan din sa economic sanctions na ipinataw ng US laban sa Iran,” Marcos also said.