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OFWs from Davao Region urged to return home amid Gulf crisis

The regional office of the Overseas Workers and Welfare Aministration (OWWA) is urging Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from Davao Region to come home amid escalating tension in the Middle East. 

Carmelo Elaya, chief for programs and services division of OWWA 11 told media at the Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday that there are 34 OFWs from Davao Region—24 are working in Iraq while 10 are working in Iran. 

They comprised the reported 1,600 OFWs in Iraq and 1,000 in Iran. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently raised “Crisis Alert Level 4” over Iraq, paving the way for the mandatory repatriation of some Filipinos working there. The level 4 alert, which is the highest among the DFA travel advisories, was issued after a US drone attack killed a top Iranian general in Iraq on Jan. 3. 

“The crisis is now in alert level 4 and OFWs are advised to evacuate. Ang ato ginahangyo na pabalikon na sila diri pero kung mag dumili sila, decision na sa mga OFWs,” Elaya said. 

Elaya added that OWWA 11 has established Task Force Gitnang Silangan, which is a crisis management committee that will help the OFWs.

” Ang atong Task Force muabot didto para ma-istoryahan sila ug i – convince na muuli na sila. In fact, OWWA administrator is currently travelling to the ME. We are monitoring OFWs in ME right now,” he said. 

Elaya said OWWA has set programs for the distressed OFWs  through the”Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay” program where OFWs each will receive P20,000 livelihood assistance. 

“Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay” is a non-cash livelihood support/assistance intended to provide immediate relief to returning member OFWs, active or non-active who are displaced from their jobs due to war/political conflicts in host countries or policy reforms controls and changes by the host government or are victims of illegal recruitment and/or human trafficking or other distressful situations.

“Gina-andam na jud na kanunay aron kung naay mga OFWs na muuli gikan sa Middle East puwede na matagaan ug programa,” Elaya said. 

He said repatriation effort is not just a job for the OWWA but also involves other government agencies that include DFA, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and NGOs. 

“Ato lang i-in place atong mga sistema sa pag-repatriate,” he said.