The unmitigated disaster that was the New Year's flight cancellations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has one congressman worrying about whether or not the affected overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would get fired by their foreign employers.
"My sympathies go out to those who were affected by this fortuitous event. I know that this is very frustrating. This kind of inconvenience is not how we want to start the New Year," said Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron Salo.
Salo chairs the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs in the House of Representatives.
Over 300 flights have either been cancelled, diverted, or delayed since Sunday, Jan. 1 after a power outage rocked the air traffic control of NAIA, the main gateway to and from the Philippines. And estimated 66,000 passengers were affected.
While officials from Department of Transportation (DOTR), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and NAIA have stated thsr they expect to normalize all operations within 72 hours, the OFWs returning to their employers after the Christmas vacation and those who are going to be deployed have expressed their fears that they might get terminated or rejected by their employers for failure to show up to work.
"We are fully aware of and understand the fears of our OFWs. The government must do everything in its powers to ensure that our OFWs are not sanctioned, or worse, terminated because of this unfortunate event," Salo said.
The House leader called on the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to take the necessary actions to protect the welfare and employment of thr OFWs.
"I am urgently calling on the DMW to give our OFWs the necessary protection from termination or sanction, and reassure them that their jobs are safe and that they don't need to worry. Our OFWs should not be the ones to suffer because of this disruption," Salo stated.
“Private recruitment agencies should immediately coordinate with their foreign counterparts or foreign employers to provide updates on the flight status of affected OFWs. Manning agencies should likewise undertake the same measure with their foreign principals concerning affected seafarers,” Salo added.
"I also call on the other agencies of the government to ensure that the needs of our OFWs and other passengers are necessarily provided for while they are stranded in our airports," concluded the veteran solon.