GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/08 March) – At least eight of the 46 documented Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao who were employed in strife-torn Libya have already been repatriated by the national government and availed of various forms of assistance.
Abdulghani Umag, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Region 12 director, said Tuesday their records showed that two repatriated OFWs from Koronadal City and Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat returned home last week while five other workers from this city arrived on Monday.
He said another nurse is scheduled to return home via the General Santos City airport on Wednesday.
“These were among the OFWs who came home aboard government-chartered flights as of last weekend,” Umag said.
He said the repatriates were engineer Danilo Roperos of Koronadal City; Allan Hilario of Tamapakan, South Cotabato; Joseph Bartolome, Charlie Taclendo, Noel Leonida and Danilo Banga of General Santos City; and nurse Catherine Rose Albania.
Umag said they have yet to get Albania’s hometown address and they were still waiting for the still unidentified OFW from Isulan, Sultan Kudarat to coordinate with the OWWA regional office.
Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
Umag said another group of OFWs from the region are currently still stranded in Dubai but are expected to arrive in Manila within the next few days.
“We’re continually trying to locate or contact these OFWs who have not yet availed of the government’s repatriation scheme so they can return home before the situation in Libya would worsen,” he said.
Citing accounts by the returning OFWs, he said the Libyan capital of Tripoli is no longer safe for the workers who were trapped there due to the escalating violence triggered by the conflict between supporters of Libyan leader Muamar Ghaddafi and groups that were seeking his ouster.
“The problem is that some of our OFWs were lured into staying there despite the worsening situation due to offers of bigger salaries from their employers,” Umag said.
The OWWA official said they immediately processed the release of the P10,000 from the government to the repatriated OFWs from the region.
Based on the guidelines earlier released by OWWA central office, he said the financial assistance for current OWWA members may be released by the agency’s regional offices while those for workers with expired OWWA memberships will come from the funds of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) central office.
Aside from the initial financial assistance, Umag said the repatriated OFWs may avail of some additional assistance through existing programs of OWWA and DOLE.
“They may take part in our skills training programs or DOLE’s job-matching scheme,” he said.
Umag said the OFWs may take part in the scheduled jobs fair on March 18-20 at the SM North Mall in Metro Manila where at least 6,000 job placements in the United States would reportedly be prioritized for displaced workers from Libya.
Lawyer Ma. Gloria Tango, DOLE Region 12 director, said the returning OFWs may opt to avail of the agency’s lending program for small business ventures or seek new job placements through its job facilitation scheme.
“They have the option to seek another employment and we can help them gain placement by matching their qualifications and skills with the available local and domestic job openings,” she said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)