The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has “suspended the departure” of the 400 caregivers who were supposed to be deployed to Israel this month.
“It will just be about a few days of delay. We just want to be sure they will be safe,” DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement Thursday, May 20.
“We have not banned the deployment of our workers to Israel. The processing of those who already qualified continues. We are merely suspending their actual departure while the tension is still high,” clarified Bello.
His announcement came a day after a rather upbeat Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Bernard Olalia bared that the local caregivers’ deployment to Israel–which has been rocked by repeated rocket attacks from Hamas–was imminent.
“Home-based po ito (These are homebased caregivers) under the bilateral agreement between the two countries. Matatapos na po yung proseso para sa ultimate departure po nila para sa bansang Israel (The process of their ultimate departure for Israel will soon be finished),” Olalia said in a virtual press briefing organized by DOLE.
The POEA is a subordinate agency of DOLE.
Bello further delved into the reason for suspending the departure of the 400 caregivers: “Sagutin ko po sila kay Pangulong Duterte kung ano man ang mangyari sa kanila in case sila ay umalis sa kabila ng mataas na tension doon sa Israel (I will be answerable to President Duterte in case they leave for Israel and something happens to them there amid the high tension).” “Ang pakiusap ko po sa ating mga paalis na caregivers at healthcare workers ay ipagpaliban ng ilang araw ang kanilang biyahe upang hindi sila mapahamak (My plea to our outbound caregivers and healthcare workers is for them to postpone their departure for a few days so that they won’t be endangered),” he added.
There are an estimated 30,000 OFWs in Israel. Israeli forces and Hamas fighters renewed their hostilities against each other earlier this month.