Newly-hired OFWs Are Now Allowed to Leave For Abroad, Except Health Care Workers

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As corona virus lockdown eases, the Philippine government once again allowed the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) including those newly-hired but except those health care professionals who are covered by the deployment ban.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this was among the approved guidelines under the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID) Resolution 36.

These OFWs, land-based or sea-based workers shall be allowed to seek employment and leave the country as long as they sign a declaration signifying their knowledge of the risks involved.

The policy came as most of the country prepares to shift to more relaxed community quarantine on Saturday with the exemptions of Metro Manila, Laguna province and Cebu City, which have been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

Roque reiterated that the IATF-EID also allowed recruitment and placement agencies to resume operations both in areas under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

Government offices and agencies involved in the processing of OFW deployment were ordered to establish “green lanes” to enable prompt processing and deployment, he added.

However, medical professionals are not covered by the new IATF resolution.

They are still banned from leaving the country under the deployment ban enforced by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Roque said.

Last month, the POEA issued a temporary ban for medical workers from working overseas until the national state of emergency is lifted.

To recall, President Rodrigo Duterte said, “Please don’t misunderstand me. I am making it clear now. I do not want you to go there and come back in a coffin. That’s my only argument, if you may because you are Filipinos at mahal ko ang mga buhay ng mga kababayan ko (and I love my countrymen),”

But the coronavirus task force revised the guidelines allowing health care workers with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8 to work abroad.

These were done following oppositions from migrant workers and some government officials.

Last May 4, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would discuss with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra the legality of stopping health workers from leaving since he was concerned about their health and safety.

Roque explained that it is perfectly legal for Duterte to exercise police powers to stop Filipino health workers from migrating since it is pursuant to the general welfare clause.

Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete said they would consider the health care workers’ right to travel and seek livelihood outside the country, as well as the health situation in the country.

Many OFWs were forced to return to the Philippines after losing their jobs abroad due to the coronavirus crisis.

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