Outgoing Bicol OWWA Director Jocelyn Hapal said that, as of two days ago, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had yet to enforce a repatriation notice to Filipinos working in the strife-torn state.
Without revealing the names of the five overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Hapal said that based on their records, they were employed in the construction business.
The official also believes that the number might be more considering the fact that there are also undocumented foreign workers in the said Middle Eastern country.
These undocumented workers according to Hapal did not go through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), hence they would be absent from their database.
The director also stressed that if these workers are not on record, they would not be able to avail of the alleviation programs the OWWA has for repatriated OFWs.
Hapal said that repatriated OFWs are granted livelihood packages to assist them in between employment.
In most cases, the entrepreneurial assistance provided by their agency become their new source of income, discouraging them from returning overseas.
It will be recalled that the DFA raised Alert Level 4 (Mandatory Repatriation) in Yemen after continued deterioration of the security situation.
A resolution on the matter was even issued by the DFA as early as February 23, 2015 but is still being snubbed by Filipinos working there.
The reason: there is not enough employment opportunities in the Philippines.
On a related issue, Hapal personally disagrees with the proposal to tax OFW remittances.
The official said that the money earned by these so-called “new breed of heroes” were earned in a foreign land and not in the Philippines and is therefore not subject to the country’s revenue laws.
She suggested that these workers should even be exempted from such measures as they have been the “saving grace” of the Philippine economy.
Meanwhile, according to the OWWA Bicol records, there are about 11,000 OFWs from the Bicol region alone.
If all these workers would abandon their posts and return home, according to critics, the Philippine government would have an unemployment nightmare on her hands. – by Joey B. Garalde