MANILA, MARCH 18, 2015— A better job with risks or safety and unemployment?
This is how a Filipino priest serving in war-torn Libya sums up the quandary Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) there are in, stressing repatriation is an offer they can refuse as long as they only see unemployment and hunger back home.
In an interview with CBCP News, Fr. Amado Baranquel, a Franciscan who has been in Libya since 1995, explained the reason why Filipinos there reject the government’s repatriation offer despite risks to their lives, is not because they crave martyrdom, but because they dread the loss of employment on which the future of their families and relatives in the Philippines depend.
He stressed the most the government can do now to convince OFWs to go home is to assure them they can as easily fly back to Libya once the conflict there is over, or at least there are better opportunities awaiting them in the Philippines which will make overseas employment no longer attractive.
Baranquel, who heads the Maria Immacolata Parish in Benghazi, lamented he could only pray for and listen to fellow Filipinos whose situations he described as “depressing” and “stressing.”
“I often hear them asking themselves what will happen when they’re already home … they’re still full of hope that things will improve here,” he said.
Red tape, fees
More than stray bullets and shrapnel, the Bicolano missionary pointed out OFWs fear the government red tape and the agency fees which are part of the process each of them has to undergo.
According to Baranquel, the government must issue a memorandum ordering the creation of a support program for repatriated OFWs.
Under this program, he said, those still interested to work abroad will be automatically exempted from the usual red tape and associated fees, provided they can show a proof of previous employment.
The priest said the memo must also give priority to repatriated OFWs in case there are job openings in safer countries.
Moreover, Baranquel reminded the Philippine government that the Catholic Church in Libya can only do so much.
“The government should really be the one taking the initiative because it has the means and the structure,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)