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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Philippines backtracks on worker ban to Qatar (UPDATED)

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By Doha News Team

Philippines embassy in Doha. Credit: Philippines embassy in Doha/Facebook

This story was updated on June 7 to reflect the ban has been scrapped

The Philippines has lifted a ban on nationals traveling to Qatar for work due amid a growing dispute between Gulf states, the local embassy in Doha has said.

It had only been in place for one day.

The move comes amid criticism from OFWs in Qatar about the ban, which they called an overreaction.

In a statement, Ambassador Alan Timbayan said:

“The Philippine Embassy in Doha continues to monitor developments in the region and calls on Filipinos to remain calm as there is no immediate reason to be concerned about the safety and security of Filipinos in Qatar.”

Temporary ban

Yesterday, the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the interim block would be in place until a government team studied the situation.

In a statement, he said:

“I temporarily suspend the deployment of our OFWs in the county of Qatar. This is for us to be able to assess the situation because there are so many wild rumors going around, saying things are not going well there. This suspension is for the welfare and protection of our OFWs.”

Government officials are being sent to Qatar and other Gulf countries to get an on-the-ground understanding of developments, Bello added.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Sanofi Pasteur/Flickr

The move was to affect Filipinos who were planning to move to Qatar for the first time, as well as nationals already working in Doha.

The statement continued: “We need to study first the situation. For now, the protection of our migrant workers comes first. The duration of suspension of deployment will depend on the assessment of the situation with close coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

Interdependence

The decision followed announcements by seven nations to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday.

Additionally, the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain said they were closing land, air and sea access to Qatar.

For illustrative purposes only. Credit: QNA

Amid the uncertainty following the development, Qatar officials have stressed that the dispute will not affect the normal course of life for citizens and residents in the country.

There are more than 260,000 Filipinos in Qatar, one of the country’s largest expat communities. It is unclear how or even if the ban will affect them.

But thousands more OFWs are expected to come to Qatar in the coming months for work.

Signing of Qatar-Philippines agreements. Credit: QNA

Two months ago, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte made an official visit to Qatar, where he met with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

He signed more than a dozen deals worth $206 million with the government and the private sector to secure some 6,000 jobs for Filipinos back home.

The Philippines’ economy relies heavily on remittances from its nationals working overseas.

In 2016, Filipinos based in the Middle East sent home $7.6 billion in remittances, Reuters reported.

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