MANILA (July 22) — Ten Filipino workers at a NATO base in Afghanistan were among the 16 civilians killed in a helicopter crash at NATO’s largest air base in Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday. The Russian-owed civilian Mi-8 helicopter slammed into the tarmac at Kandahar Air Base shortly after takeoff.
Philippine diplomats from Pakistan have arrived in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to help identify the bodies and repatriate them, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said.
The Philippines has banned its overseas workers from Afghanistan, but many still end up employed at military bases there.
The Filipinos killed Sunday had been working at the NATO base for several years. They did not return to the Philippines because the government had imposed a ban on travel to Afghanistan, the head of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Carmelita Dimzon, told the Philippine Star daily.
Nearly 10 percent of the country’s 90 million people work abroad — many as nurses, maids, engineers, construction workers and seamen. Last year, overseas Filipinos sent home $16.4 billion, equal to about 10.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, fueling domestic consumption that is a lynchpin of the economy.
Apart from Afghanistan, Filipino workers are not allowed to seek jobs in Iraq, Lebanon and Nigeria. About 6,000 were thought to be working illegally at military bases across Iraq.