Posted on Jul 09, 2009

WORSENING SITUATION Villar: Fasttrack help to 120 OFWs in Libya

SEN. Manny Villar asked the government and the responsible recruitment agency to expedite assistance to 120 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Benghazi, Libya as their situation has become intolerable.

The Nacionalista Party president said the OFWs, who were earlier reported by Migrante-Middle East Regional Coordinator John Leonard Monterona to have been transferred worksite from Tripoli to Benghazi with downgraded and delayed salaries, have no potable water and scant food amid deplorable living conditions.

In their letter to Villar yesterday, the OFWs wrote, “Tulungan n’yo po kami na mailipat sa maayos na employer, at kung hindi po, mas mabuti po na pauwiin na lamang kami. (Help us transfer to a decent employer, and if not, it will be better for us to be repatriated.)”

The OFWs, who were originally 131, were deployed in Libya by batches, with 35 arriving on April 4, 30 on April 6, 45 on April 18, and 21 workers on May 10.

Eleven of the OFWs who could no longer endure their situation decided to leave the accommodation premises and found jobs, leaving the 120 OFWs behind.

In response to Villar’s query, Philippine Labor Attaché to Libya Nasser Mustafa stated that the workers’ complaints were legitimate.

Mustafa earlier informed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration of the case of the 131 OFWs who were all deployed by Bison Management Corp.

Mustafa said the workers’ complaints were salaries downgraded and delayed for two months, contract substitution, crowded accommodation, poor medical attention such as failure to give proper advice to four workers who contracted chicken pox, lack of safety gadgets exposing workers to harm, and probationary period in which a big number of the OFWs apparently did not pass.

The workers reasoned out that their alleged “poor performance” was due to miscommunication and absence of clear instructions, and lack of needed equipment to help them finish the job.

Mustafa informed Villar, “While negotiations are underway for the official release of the 11 workers who already commenced work with another company and the rest who will eventually be taken by a big construction company in Libya, we expect the owner of Bison Agency to spearhead the final arrangements as soon as she arrives from Manila this week.”

Villar stressed, “We expect the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration), and the recruitment agency to fasttrack results on this case which involves 131 Filipino workers.”

Harsh conditions faced by OFWs earlier pushed the senator to actively press for the application of the "no-fault insurance system" for OFWs, a form of indemnity plan in which anyone injured in an accident or misfortune receives direct payment from the company that has insured them, eliminating the need for victims to establish another's liability or fault through a civil case.

Villar has filed Senate Bill 3040 or the "Overseas Contract Workers Insurance Act" which seeks compulsory insurance for all OFWs in addition to benefits being provided by OWWA.