Repatriated OFWs can be redeployed to other countries amid Middle East conflict – official

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 10) — The Philippine government has planned out measures to assist overseas workers who will be repatriated from the Middle East amid the ongoing conflict there, a Cabinet official said Friday.

Apart from the planned livelihood training and packages, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said displaced OFWs may also seek redeployment and transfer to other countries— if they still want to pursue work abroad.

Io-offer din naman natin ang kanilang (We will also offer) redeployment if they want to work again overseas– but no longer in the Middle East,” Nograles said in a chance interview with reporters in Malacañang.

Nograles said the government has been in contact with countries including Japan, Canada, Germany, China, and Russia— in hopes that they will be open to employ the Filipino workers. The redeployment scheme will prioritize repatriated individuals from conflict areas in the Middle East, particularly Iraq.

“If we need to redeploy them, kasi nga gusto magtrabaho abroad, kung sino man ang mga friendly countries natin na ready to accept our OFWs, the priority will be those who were repatriated from Iraq,” Nograles added.

[Translation: If we need to redeploy them because they want to continue working abroad—whichever countries are friendly and ready to accept our OFWs, the priority will be those who were repatriated from Iraq.]

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered a mandatory repatriation of Filipinos from some parts of the Middle East, after the highest threat alert was raised amid tensions between the United States and Iran.

More than a thousand Filipinos in Iraq have expressed their desire to avail of the government’s repatriation program

The government earlier said mandatory repatriation of Filipinos has been ordered in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon as the highest alert level was raised in those countries.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Thursday, however, confirmed mandatory repatriation from Iran and Lebanon has been called off following the lowering of the alert level in those areas. The heighest alert level remains in place in Iraq. 

Conflict in the Middle East stemmed from the death of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed following a strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.

TIMELINE: US-Iran conflict and how it gravely affects Filipinos 

Trump on Wednesday said Iran “appears to be standing down” after the reported retaliatory attacks of its troops. Local government officials, however, urged Filipinos to still come home for their safety.

“The effort to convince them (to go home) will continue, safety and well-being ang nakataya dito (are at stake),” Overseas Workers Welfare Administration administrator Hans Cacdac told CNN Philippines.

RELATED: Airlines pledge free flights for OFW repatriation amid Middle East tensions 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also assured military troops remain ready to assist OFWs who still want to come home from the Middle East.

CNN Philippines’ Alyssa Rola and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.