OFW groups raise concerns amid US-Iran tension

Members of the Filipino community attend a meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

ORGANIZATIONS advocating the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on January 4, aired concerns over the possible adverse effects of the brewing tension in the Middle East on the heels of the United States (US) government’s assassination of a top Iranian military official.

In a statement, Alliance for Community Transformation and Service- OFW (ACTS-OFW) Coalition of Organizations said, they are worried that the tension may pose adverse effects towards the jobs as well as lives of OFWs in the region.

“Any eruption of open hostilities in the Middle East involving the US is bound to drag its major military allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both of which host large numbers of Filipino workers,” ACTS-OFW Chairman Aniceto Bertiz III.

“In an extreme scenario, even Filipinos in some parts of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar might be exposed to danger, considering that they also host American military facilities and/or personnel,” he added.

He said those in peril may also include Filipino sailors on board Western oil and gas tankers as they could be attacked by Iran in retaliation for the US actions.

“Right now, hundreds of Filipino sailors on Western oil and gas tankers navigating through the Strait of Hormuz every day are already in harm’s way, given that Iran has warned of swift and severe retaliation,” said Bertiz.

For its part, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center urged OFWs in the Middle East to take seriously the latest developments in the US-Iran tension.

This, according to Ople Center head Susan Ople, means that OFWs should familiarize themselves with the hotlines and Facebook pages of Philippine posts.

"OFWs should have their company IDs and passports in their possession, avoid unnecessary travel, and notify the nearest embassy or consulate in case of any perceived security threat," said Ople.

“Our national interest lies in the protection of more than a million Filipinos across the Middle East. Let us not take these unfolding events lightly," added the former labor undersecretary.

On the other hand, she said OFWs there must steer clear of political conversations and commentaries online on the issue.

“The heightened security alert across the Middle East warrants the strict monitoring and tracking of political noise, offline and online. An innocent post by an OFW even in the vernacular can easily be misinterpreted by the host government so it is best to stay silent and not to interfere or participate in political conversations,” said Ople.

Earlier, a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump led to the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at the Baghdad Airport in Iraq.

Trump already admitted that he ordered the assassination of Soleimani in a bid to stop a war as tensions between the two nations are already escalating.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in response, said the Americans would be facing the consequences for killing Soleimani. (HDT)