NewsPress Release

OFWs in Libya seek understanding — Ople Center

5 August 2014

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center today said the decision to leave Libya is not an easy one for many overseas Filipino workers to make due to the circumstances in their place of work.

“Some of them have this strong sense of obligation to keep working because Libya’s basic services and critical industries are reliant on their professional skills and experience,” Susan Ople, head of the Center said.

She cited the information shared by Bronson Grajera who works for a major power plant that supplies electricity for Libya.

“Kailangan ang supply ng kuryente para makatulong sa seguridad at kabuhayan ng Libya. Humihingi ng tulong ang mga Libyano sa mga Pilipino dito na huwag munang umuwi yung mga operators at maintenance workers ng power plant dahil pag-umuwi sila ay di mapapa-andar ng mga Libyano ang planta.” (“Libya needs its power supply for security and livelihood. Libyans have been asking the Filipino workers in the operations and maintenance department of the power plant not to leave because the locals cannot run the plant by themselves.”)

Grajera told the Ople Center that the Filipinos in the power plant where he works number around 500. They are now training their Libyan co-workers to ensure that the power plant will continue to function without Filipino manpower.

Another OFW, Abdul Bashit Tampogao who works as an ER staff nurse at Tripoli Medical Center, said that management requested them to stay on to help the remaining doctors.

The hospital gave out relief goods to the Filipino nurses who are still awaiting the release of last month’s salary.

Tampogao conveyed through the Ople Center his appeal to the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration for financial assistance to repatriated workers from Libya most of whom are OWWA members.

“In 2011, those who were repatriated from Libya received Php10,000 in financial assistance from OWWA. Why is there not a similar announcement for this crisis? What’s the difference between the conflict in 2011 and that of today?” Tampogao said.

He added that most OFWs would be leaving Libya without money to bring home to their families. The financial assistance from OWWA will help their families upon their return while they look for other jobs.

The Ople Center said it is sharing the comments of some OFWs in Libya to enable the public to gain some insights on the workers’ situation in the war-torn country.

“It’s not that easy,” the Center said.

The non-profit organization added that it has also been receiving queries about the ship that would be bringing Filipino workers home from Libya.

“Based on conversations I have with OFWs in Libya, many of them do want to come home but are unsure on how best to get to the safety of our Philippine Embassy,” Susan Ople, head of the policy center, said.

Their employers are warning them about the dangers of traveling long distances to reach the embassy by themselves, she added.

She said that the workers who have recently reached out to the Ople Center have expressed willingness to cooperate with the embassy’s rapid response team. “They do appreciate our government’s repatriation assistance,” she said.

The Ople Center called on all Filipinos to keep praying for the safety of compatriots in Libya including Philippine embassy personnel. “Some of our workers are negotiating for their pay, others are uncertain about the safest routes to our embassy, while there are professionals like Bronson Grajera who realize how vital it is to keep their operations going for Libya’s economic survival.”

The Ople Center urged the Philippine Embassy to intensify its information campaign within Libya with clearer instructions on what to do, where to stay, and how to travel to safer destinations.

“We continue to receive queries from OFWs in Libya regarding the arrival of the ship from Malta that would bring them home. They are unclear as to what the arrangements are, where they should go, who can help them out and what to expect while traveling to the designated meeting place,” Ople pointed out.

“They really need guidance on what to do and where to go,” she said. The Center however acknowledged that time is running out and that power outages also hamper communications efforts.

“Let’s all work together to address this intractable dilemma confronting stranded OFWs by understanding their plight and exhausting all possible means to ferry them out to safety,” the Ople Center said.

News accounts showed that violence has escalated in the past few days, indiscriminately killing and affecting many innocent individuals, including our skilled workers in Libya who remain in grave danger unless they are led to safer grounds where they can be repatriated.

According to the DFA, there are more than 12,000 OFWs who remain stranded by the conflict in Libya, to include workers in oil and gas companies, medical institutions, and construction sites.

Ople also appealed to generous big businesses and private individuals to participate and support the government’s reintegration efforts so that repatriated overseas workers from Libya and Syria can be given the chance to work or put up a business in their homeland.

“Given that their professional skills are so highly valued in Libya, it is but reasonable to expect that they can be employed here at home as well or in other safer destinations overseas,” the Ople Center noted. (30)

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