MANILA, Philippines – An estimated 5,000 Filipino workers in Afghanistan are set to send their third letter to President Aquino this week reiterating their request that the Dec. 31 deadline for them to finish their contracts be lifted so they would be allowed to extend their stay in the war-torn country.
The OFWs also expressed their willingness to waive their protection rights and pay additional taxes to the Philippine government, to enable them to keep their jobs.
“Hopefully, this would be the last letter we would be sending to President Aquino. We hope that he would remove the Dec. 31 deadline clause so that we would be allowed to stay in Afghanistan,” Carlo Echano, a senior logistics manager of a United States company based in Afghanistan, said.
They have five months to change the President’s mind.
The appeal was made by the undocumented workers in Afghanistan after the Philippine embassy in Pakistan, that has jurisdiction over Afghanistan, issued a memorandum last Feb. 11, telling “all concerned contractors/subcontractors, non-governmental entities, and private agencies that the government of the Republic of the Philippines has decided to exempt Filipino nationals inside US/NATO military bases and who are working on US-sponsored projects in Afghanistan from the current travel/deployment ban to allow said Filipino nationals to finish their contracts until 31 December 2011.”
Echano said their previous letters prompted Aquino to send former General Roy Cimatu to the US facility in Afghanistan and check on the conditions of the Filipinos.
“Cimatu’s assessment was that it was safe to stay and work inside the US bases,” he said.
Cimatu and Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) executive director Ricardo Endaya reportedly said that security protocols and hardened bunkers were more than enough to protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in case of rocket attacks.
The workers employed by US contractors are covered by a minimum $50,000 insurance policy and their excellent working conditions including their salaries are higher compared to regular wages in the Middle East, the Afghanistan-based workers said in a statement.
They are even willing to sign a waiver that will not hold the Philippine government liable for any problems or eventuality during their stay in Afghanistan.
The workers also aired their readiness to pay the Philippine government P30,000 exit tax, which shall also serve as their official exit clearance.
“Instead of paying our way out to unscrupulous airport personnel when exiting the country, workers would just pay P30,000 exit clearance to the government,” they said.
“The issue of security inside the bases has been verified by an assessment team from the Department of Foreign Affairs who said that hardened bunkers were more than enough to protect OFWs in case of rocket attacks which are quite impossible to happen,” Echano pointed out.
He said Filipino workers who are employed by US contractors are covered by a minimum $50,000 insurance policy and are enjoying excellent working conditions, including high salaries. – With Mayen Jaymalin