MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government has called on Lebanon to send representatives for the second round of talks between the two countries and finally decide on the labor deployment ban imposed in the Middle East state in 2007.
Lebanon, which has consistently lobbied for the Philippines to lift its two-year deployment ban, is expected to submit its counter proposal to the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Labor Cooperation in July, Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Gilberto Asuque said.
The Philippines has stopped sending Filipino workers to Lebanon in mid-2006 at the height of fighting between Israeli and Hezbollah forces.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) then blocked the deployment of household service workers in Lebanon following reports of maltreatment and non-payment of wages.
The signing of the MOA is one of the conditions in order to lift the ban.
“Both countries are also negotiating the Protocol on Household Service Workers as part of their talks," the DFA said in a statement.
The first technical meeting, held on May 27-29 in Beirut, was attended by DFA representatives as well as officials from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
“The Embassy shall endeavor to negotiate the revised draft MOA with the Lebanese side for the purpose of bringing an agreed text to the second technical meeting to be held in Manila at an agreed date," Asuque said.
The DFA reported that Lebanon’s Ministry of Labor said that the arbitration and conciliation committee was recently organized within the ministry and now receives complaints of foreign workers against their employers.
Malacañang and the Office of the Vice President had earlier given the go-signal to lift the OFW deployment ban to Lebanon, but the DOLE has declined to lift the ban unless the Lebanese government ensures the protection and safety of Filipino workers.
Labor Secretary Marianito Roque has opposed the lifting of the ban without guarantees from the Lebanese government, due to the high number of Filipino maids running away from abusive employers.
In the meantime, the Philippine Ambassador reiterated the government’s advisory to Filipinos not to accept jobs in Lebanon until the MOA has been signed, the DFA said.
The DFA meanwhile clarified that Lebanese employers are interested in hiring household service workers, chefs, and waitresses at this time, contrary to reports that there are 10,000 jobs available for skilled and non-skilled Filipino workers.
Seminars and dialogues will be conducted by the DFA and DOLE with local officials, church leaders, and barangay leaders especially in Isabela, Cagayan and La Union provinces, which are said to be the main source of illegally-deployed Filipinos to Lebanon. - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV