Monday, January 3, 2011

PHL helps OFWs in Madagascar

Philippine officials are assisting the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who went on strike against the Kentz Engineering and Constructors in Madagascar for contract violations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it has instructed the Philippine Embassy in Nairobi (Kenya) to look after the welfare of the OFWs and ensure that their concerns are addressed.

"The Embassy has called the attention of the Kentz Engineering and Construction (sic) to the complaints of the OFWs and urged the latter to address them promptly, and also to give priority to the repatriation of the 70 awaiting repatriation," the DFA said in an article posted Monday on the government portal. 

The DFA also said the Embassy plans to dispatch a consular team to Madagascar as soon as possible.

A number of Filipinos employed by Kentz Engineering and Constructions working in theAmbatovy Mining site in Tamatave, Madagascar went on strike two weeks ago.

The OFWs cited the delayed payment of salaries, non-payment of overtime pay, and unsuitable and overcrowded accommodations, among others. The strikes have ceased, the DFA said.

In an earlier interview, OFW Reynaldo Ubasa told GMANews.TV that majority of the 2,500 Filipino workers of Kentz in its Madagascar site staged strikes against the company three times since November last year.

He added that hundreds more have expressed their desire to be repatriated in the next few months if their complaints will remain unaddressed.

Ubasa is among the 15 OFWs who requested repatriation and the group left for Manila on December 20, according to the DFA.

Some 70 others are in a hotel in Antananarivo, Madagascar waiting to be repatriated.

"The Kentz Engineering and Construction assured the embassy that the company is doing its utmost to repatriate the 70 workers at the soonest time possible," the DFA said.

However, the DFA added there has been some difficulty in securing flights for the 70 OFWs because of the lack of available flights during the recent holiday rush.

The DFA said the Embassy is also in constant touch with the representatives of the workers and the Philippine Society of Madagascar, which is also helping the Embassy assist the workers.

The DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs is likewise coordinating with the OFWs’ placement agencies in Manila to assist the workers and ensure that their rights are respected.

Roger Gonzales, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Embassy in Kenya, earlier said in a separate interview that despite the labor problems, some 600 OFWs are still set to be hired by Kentz in Madagascar, which targets the hiring of 3,000 Filipino workers.

Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show that the number of Filipino OFWs deployed to Madagascar began increasing in 2007, when 166 workers were sent there, up from just 23 in the previous year. 

In 2009, over 1,000 Filipino workers were sent to the east African island nation.

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas, however, estimates there were over 23,000 Filipinos in Madagascar in December 2009, only 77 of whom were permanent residents while the rest were temporary workers.

There are no Philippine government offices in Madagascar. 

The Philippine Embassy in Nairobi — over 2,200 kilometers away from Madagascar — has jurisdiction over Filipinos residing or working in that island nation. 

According to its website, Kentz is a global construction and technical support firm with hundreds of clients in the hydrocarbon, infrastructure, process, water, telecommunications, power and industrial sectors.

It has been operating for over 90 years, and has some 10,000 employees in 26 countries. – VVP, GMANews.TV

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