Filipinos in Afghanistan Await DFA’s Memo To Continue Working

by Patty Maluto

MANILA—Thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and several private companies in Afghanistan are waiting for the official memo from the Philippine embassy in Islamabad that will allow them to continue their employment contracts with United States military bases there.

In a letter addressed to the Philippine embassy in Islamabad, Filipinos in Afghanistan spokesman Emmanuel Geslani said that unless the memorandum is sent to the US Central Command, the repatriation efforts of US military bases’ Filipino workers will go on as planned.

The Philippine embassy in Islamabad has jurisdiction over Afghanistan.

“Their [OFWs] continued employment depends on an official communications from the Philippine government,” the letter said.

Geslani said that an official memorandum was sent by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) via facsimile to the Philippine embassy on August 31.

The memo, signed by President Aquino and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, contains the instructions on the exclusion of Filipinos working inside US bases from the deployment ban imposed on Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since there was a five-day non-working holiday inPakistan, the embassy might have overlooked the memo, the spokesman said.

“I fear that no action was taken until today,” Geslani said.

President Aquino has already approved Ochoa’s recommendation to extend the stay of all Filipino workers inside US bases in Afghanistan through the Overseas Preparedness Team.

Since 2007, a total travel and work ban has been imposed to Afghanistan because of continuing security concerns in the country, citing numerous attacks by the Taliban and several bomb attacks directed towards United Nations forces. Despite the ban, Filipino workers were continually recruited.

An earlier report said that more than 6,000 Filipinos are in danger of being mass repatriated if the government continues to enforce its travel and labor ban to Afghanistan.

The US Central Command has already sent a memorandum to all contractors in Afghanistan about the illegal employment of third world nationals whose domestic laws prohibited their citizens from traveling and working in Afghanistan.

A similar memorandum was also sent to Iraq last year, wherein the United States ordered the relieving of nationals whose domestic laws disallowed them to work in war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Philippine government initially allowed Filipino workers to work inside US military bases in the conflict-torn countries until only December 31 this year.

The US forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan beginning next year.

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