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PIA Press Release
2006/10/25

RP stops deployment of workers to Kazakhstan

Quezon City (25 October) -- A day after Filipino workers at an oil refinery in Kazakhstan said they want to go home, Philippine labor authorities suspended the deployment of Filipino workers in the area.

The labor department said the deployment suspension applies to the Tengiz region, where more than 600 Filipinos voiced fears they may be dragged into the mess.

"The Philippine government has moved to ensure the safety of overseas Filipino workers in Kazakhstan by temporarily suspending the deployment and departure of OFWs bound for Tengiz, and sending a Composite Team to assess the situation and ensure the well-being of the OFWs in the area," the DOLE said.

It also sent a high-level team to Tengiz to assess the condition of the Filipinos there, even as Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya said the workers were "safe and secured."

Acting Labor Secretary Danilo Cruz said those who want to go home to the Philippines will be repatriated soonest.

Cruz said that Tengiz had been the site of the recent massive riot reportedly pitting locals against Turkish workers that left 300 people injured, two of them seriously.

But he maintained none of the estimated 450 documented OFWs in the area, comprising half of around 900 OFWs in the entire country, had been directly involved in the unrest.

He added security measures have already been instituted to protect Filipino workers.

"Bechtel, the OFWs' main employer in Tengiz, had already moved them to a safer, exclusive dormitory, while the Kazakhstan government also augmented the existing security force," he said.

Also, Cruz said the Philippine government sent a team composed of Philippine ambassador to Pakistan Jaime Yambao; Riyadh-based labor attaché Rustico de la Fuente; DFA Consul General Agnes Cervantes, and representatives of Bechtel and the recruitment agency, International Skills Development, to Kazakhstan.

He said the team will proceed to Kazakhstan on Thursday and is due to arrive there Friday.

Cruz said he has directed De La Fuente to hold a dialog onsite with the OFWs in Tengiz, and ascertain fully their conditions to ensure their safety and well-being.

Dela Fuente will have the authority to "activate responses, including possible repatriation, when necessary," Cruz said.

"While the crisis is clearly not on the scale of the recent war in Lebanon, we are on full alert in order to ensure the safety and well-being of our workers amidst their positive role in the growth and development of the Kazakhstan economy," Cruz said. (PIA) [top]

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