Imee: Do not involve military in OFW repatriation

Published January 12, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Imee Marcos on Sunday cautioned the Duterte administration against involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel in its repatriation plans for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East.

Senator Imee Marcos (Senator Imee Marcos Official Facebook Page /  FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Imee Marcos (Senator Imee Marcos Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Marcos said the government should employ more diplomacy and less military intervention to avoid future complications because the government maintains a Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

The senator said diplomatic hitches, logistical delays, or worse may arise if host government at transit and exit points see OFW rescue operations as military in character.

Marcos said the government should mobilize the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) instead more than using Philippine soldiers and military assets to help distressed OFWs in the region.

“Bakit napako na lang si Secretary Locsin sa Twitter? Naiintindihan ko ang tiwala ng Presidente sa ating mga sundalo para gampanan ang kanilang tungkulin, pero diplomasya ang dapat na nangunguna sa ganitong mga sitwasyon, (Why is Secretary (Teodoro) Locsin is still on Twitter? I understand the President’s trust on our soldiers and their mandate to their duty, but diplomacy should be at the forefront in this kind of situation),” Marcos said.

“The DFA is used to this and it is really their job to engage with other countries and evacuating our OFWs is part of the job of the DFA, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and our policemen who have been trained by the DFA,” she pointed out.

The government earlier bared plans to deploy Filipino soldiers and military air and naval assets to assist in bringing OFWs home.

READ MORE: Duterte: PH to send troops to help U.S. only in case of ‘national interest’

The Department of National Defense and has sent Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who was recently appointed by President Duterte as Envoy to the Middle East, to Qatar, to oversee the government’s repatriation program.

READ MORE: Duterte orders Lorenzana, Cimatu to coordinate repatriation, says there are sufficient funds

But Marcos said she is wondering why not a word has been said about asking the United Nations (UN) for help when it can provide its site camps in the Middle East as temporary shelters for OFWs.

“Secretary Cimatu should coordinate with the UN which has numerous personnel in the Middle East, including Filipinos,” she said.

The lawmaker added that the problems of providing transit shelters for Filipino migrants and of reducing the number of undocumented OFWs could have been solved if a National Overseas Employment Authority had already been created.

Marcos has filed Senate Bill No. 407 last July, seeking to merge the expertise of DFA and DOLE on OFW issues into a Cabinet-level agency and upgrading the functions of the present Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA).

But the measure is still pending at the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development; civil service, government reorganization and professional regulation; and finance.