Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate is ready to take action on President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for Congress to convene a special session for the repatriation of OFWs in the Middle East, Tuesday.
“If ever the President will request for a special session for the need to pass a supplemental budget to help repatriate our kababayans (countrymen) from the Middle East, we in the Senate are prepared to act on his request and can meet at any time in the interest of our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” the senator said in a statement.
Zubiri also said the Chamber supports Duterte’s plan to create a Crisis Committee that will oversee the millions of OFWs’ repatriation in case war starts in the Middle East.
As per official records, there are about 1.2 million registered OFWs working in Middle East countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Israel, and Bahrain.
However, the number of undocumented of unregistered OFWs illegally working in the Middle East is unknown.
“That is a gargantuan task, and we would need the support of all our government agencies to be able to bring home such a large number of people. I’m lauding the President’s quick action on this rather than just waiting and being reactionary after the crisis actually happens,” Zubiri said.
Also read: Who is Qasem Soleimani of Iran?
Billions of funds ready for repatriation of OFWs in Middle East
Zubiri also said that if the need arises, President Duterte can immediately utilize “the billions of pesos of contingency funds” pending approval. The fund is from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) allocated for the repatriation of OFWs.
“Those funds are readily available for these emergencies,” Zubiri said.
President Duterte first said the idea of calling for a special session of Congress to put up a standby fund needed to secure the Pinoys working in the Middle East.
The Philippine Embassy raised alert level 4 and ordered mandatory repatriation for Pinoys in Iraq on Wednesday as the tension between the US and the Middle East rises after an Iranian military commander was killed in a drone attack last week.
The U.S. Embassy Manila also released security alert amid US-Iran tensions advising their citizens in the country to take precautionary measures.