OFWs in Baghdad and in other parts of Iraq are now covered by the government’s Balik Manggagawa program, allowing them to return to the Philippines for a vacation without worrying about losing their jobs.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano endorsed the proposal for the expansion of the program to OFWs in Iraq after Filipinos there clamored for the chance to return home for the holidays.
“Our decision to approve the request of our kababayans in Iraq is based largely on humanitarian grounds and is similar to what has been granted to our other kababayans working in Afghanistan and Libya,” Cayetano said Friday.
The move will cover 1,000 Filipinos working in Babil, Baghdad, Basra, Dhiqar, Karbala, Maysan, Muthanna, Najaf, Qadisiyah, Saladin, Wasit, and other areas that are certified as safe by the Philippine Embassy.
Endorsed by Cayetano to Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the exemption will cover Filipinos registered with the Embassy in Baghdad.
These OFWs must be employed by Filipino, foreign and Iraqi companies with existing contracts with the Iraqi government; the United States government and those of member-states of the International Coalition; and the United Nations, other international organizations and non-government organizations.
Filipinos employed as private staff by foreign diplomats assigned in Baghdad and ranking officials of the Iraqi Government will also be covered as long as their employers have no pending labor-related cases.
OFWs who wish to avail of the program must submit to the Embassy a letter from their employer requesting for their coverage in the BM program along with the following documents:
- Signed employment contract in English;
- Employee and next of kin information sheet;
- Copy of Employee’s passport and iqama;
- Certificate from Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs that employer has been paying employee’s social security contributions;
- Certificate of no pending labor-related case from the Embassy;
- Certificate of undertaking for demobilization, evacuation and repatriation of Filipino employee and provision of direct and secured transportation from working premises to or from the nearest airport;
- Payment of certification, authentication, and other fees.
In order to return to Iraq, OFWs must submit to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) a certificate of exemption from the Embassy and copies of other requirements for an Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs).
The measure will not lift the Crisis Alert Level IV (Mandatory Repatriation) placed on Iraq since 2014. The crisis alert suspended the deployment of all new workers to Iraq and prevented OFWs from flying back and returning to their work.