Many Filipinos were affected on the travel restrictions to Afghanistan that the Philippine Government (sorry to say, my government) has implemented. Why I said sorry, because I am one of the affected Filipinos who are currently working in Afghanistan.
Sometimes, the thought of changing my nationality would come to mind. Hmmm, let me Google it and search which is the best Asian country that has few restrictions for their citizens. Maybe Sri Lanka? Or Vitenam? sigh….
Anyway, a while ago an article from GMAnews.tv was forwarded to me by Leonor, a former colleague of mine who was trying her luck to find a job in Afghanistan. But to no avail, the travel restrictions came first before she got here.
Here is the article.
Filipino workers in
While the government has not declared an absolute ban in the deployment of Filipino workers to
Afghanistan, that country has been classified since 2004 as a “restricted market” because of unstable peace.
Under the terms, Filipinos going to Afghanistan are required to secure clearance from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Recently, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Rosalinda Baldoz said among the distressed countries her agency is monitoring include Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Lebanon. “We were not consulted nor given time to find other employment. Nor has the Philippine government provided an alternative of us,” said FIA that claims to represent 1, 181 Filipinos working in 71 companies in Afghanistan.
Not as bad
“It is true that Afghanistan, being a post-conflict country, has residual security problems but the conditions here are not as bad as the situation in countries like Timor Leste, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Israel where there is no ban on deployment of OFWs,” the letter said.
“We would rather choose to live and work in a dangerous country where we have employment and be able to put food on our table, provide shelter and clothing and send our children to school. The Philippine government does not have the right to take away our jobs from us if it is not able to provide these for us,” continued the letter, a copy of which was furnished to GMANews.TV.
Afghanistan is a landlocked country located in the heart of Asia. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and, China in the far northeast. “Many of the Filipinos in Afghanistan are currently occupying senior positions in international development (World Bank, United Nations Development Fund, United States Agency for International Development, Asian Development Bank, Adam Smith), humanitarian (international non-governmental organizations), reconstruction (engineering, architectural design and telecommunications firms), and office/camp management (security office/camp supplies and catering services) organizations,” the FIA said.The Filipinos said many of them have experiences in post-conflict countries such as Iraq, Angola, Bosnia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.
“We chose to work here in our search for better job opportunities that are not available in our country,” the letter continued.
“We do not understand the rhyme or reason for this deployment ban to Afghanistan,” the letter said. “We feel like we are being played at and sacrificed for our Philippine government’s deficiencies somewhere.”
“We thought we are being hailed by the nation as modern-day heroes, but are we really?” they asked. Keeping the deployment ban for long, they said, would mean losing “good paying jobs” being held by over a thousand Filipinos in Afghanistan. “From an economically productive life, we and our families become an addition to the statistics of an already high poverty rate in the Philippines,” they said.
The FIA considers it strange that the Philippines is the only country that bans the sending of its citizens to work in Afghanistan. “The ban is a simplistic solution to the problem of security. The Philippine government should seek to work closely with the Filipino communities in other countries and strengthen these communities instead of making unilateral decisions that have adverse effects on the economic independence of these Filipinos,” the group suggested.
Reasons to lift the ban
The FIA enumerated the following reasons why the Philippine government ought to allow its citizens to travel to and work in Afghanistan:
“1. Our employers are reputable international organizations with projects worldwide and as such, working with these organizations in Afghanistan will be a door through which we will be able to get postings in other countries.
“2. With the ban, the Philippine Government is making an assumption that our employers are irresponsible. There are other nationalities working with Filipinos – Americans, British, Canadians, Australians, Italians, New Zealanders, etc – and they trust the security measures of our employers.
“3. Our employers provide physical security arrangements to Filipino employees (some are issued armored vests and Kevlar helmets): secured housing, armed guards, vehicles (including armored vehicles), security checks and monitoring through radios. We have a strict security regulation that non-compliance of which result to termination of employment.
“4. Filipino employees of some organizations are automatically included in the evacuation plans of the embassies under which the organizations belong.
“5. Many of the Filipinos in Afghanistan work for agencies involved in security work and are therefore aware of the daily security situation. Security information is also being shared by all international agencies.a. NGOs receive daily and weekly security advisories from ANSO (Afghanistan NGO Security Office), which is a security advisory project funded by the ECHO under the German Agro Action.b. UN, USAID, ADB and World Bank personnel have their own security information proceduresc. Private security agencies have their own sources of security information.d. Embassies disseminate security information to its citizens and to organizations under the government of that embassy.
“6. There has not been any Filipino who died from suicide bombings or caught between the conflict of the US/NATO and the armed opposition groups.
“7. Most of the Filipinos in Afghanistan have careers in international development, humanitarian and reconstruction work and this line of work is usually in post-conflict countries.
“8. Loss of income by many of the over 1,000 Filipinos working in Afghanistan. The average income of the Filipinos working in Afghanistan is $3,000 per month. A lot of the Filipinos in
“10. Responsible positions occupied by Filipinos include Country Managers/Directors, Project Team Leaders, Lead Engineers, Project Managers, and Department Heads among others. An abrupt departure from these responsibilities as a result of the ban is not fair to our agencies. Projects will be adversely affected and funds already allocated for the projects will be wasted. Thus, this will not put us in the good light with these agencies for future employment.
“11. The DFA has been working with the International Organization for the Migration (IOM) as its partner specifically in the evacuation of the Filipinos during the war in Lebanon. The IOM is on the ground Afghanistan and with Filipinos employees as well.
“12. Lack of alternative employment provided for Filipinos who will lose their jobs at very short notice.
“13. Many of Filipinos here have invested their earnings to housing and business ventures in the Philippines. We are still paying for these housing and business loans and losing our jobs will mean reneging on monthly amortizations and the consequential loss of relatively huge amounts already invested.
“14. There is a cohesive association of Filipinos in Afghanistan (FIA), which other post-conflict countries may not have, that volunteers to provide some support to “kababayans”, in the physical absence of a Philippine Consulate and DOLE representatives in Afghanistan.
a. The FIA has a warden system to respond to emergencies.
b. The FIA has proven itself in providing the necessary assistance to Filipinos – repatriating the remains of a Filipina who died for a crime-related incident, seeking medical help for sick Filipinos (quite a number of Filipinos are involved in medical work), temporary housing for Filipinos terminated from work without notice, repatriating the remains of Filipinos who died from health related causes.
c. The FIA has regularly kept in touch with and provided updates to the Philippine Embassy in Islamabad regarding the situation in Afghanistan.
GMANews.TV has been receiving emails from Filipinos in Afghanistan, criticizing the travel ban and ensuring their safety there.
“Napakatahimik po dito at safe naman kaming mga Pinoy dito, kaya gusto ko po malaman kung totoo po ‘yung travel ban,” Filipino worker Nazareth Baldoria said.
“I want you to know that all Filipinos here in
“We appeal to our concerned government officials to immediately lift the travel ban imposed in Afghanistan. This has already affected the entire OFWs working here,” said ‘Privatespy” in another email.
Jaime Garcia Jr., a structural CAD designer, wrote that he had completed a six-week training in Houston, Texas prior to deployment to Afghanistan when his employer canceled his flight to Kabul because of the ban. He was instead sent back to the Philippines. – GMANews.TV
If you are one of the affected, please do comment and let the Philippine Government hear our side.