Sea-based OFWs warned when docking in Ebola-hit countries

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

FILIPINO seafarers are being warned by the Philippine government against acquiring the dreaded Ebola virus when their ships dock in countries like Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) –Special Assistant for Office of Migrant Workers Lorenzo Jungco said it would be best if the sea-based overseas Filipino workers will be extra careful when docking in the countries experiencing the Ebola outbreak.

"We are advising our seafarers: Do not disembark from their ships," said Jungco.

He also warned against seafarers patronizing prostitution in the seaports as the Ebola virus can be transmitted through bodily fluids of an infected person.

"We all know about the 'akyat barko' activities that are prevalent in many areas," warned Jungco.

This was seconded by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Health Concerns Director Nini Lanto, who said it is very difficult to monitor the health conditions of seafarers.

"For seafarers, their destinations are worldwide. These sea-based workers are passing through these many countries to stop and to load and unload the cargoes," said Lanto.

To note, the Philippines supplies an estimated one-third of the world's shipping manpower with about 300,000.

Relative to the threat on OFWs, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) said on Monday that it is set to require licensed recruitment agencies that have deployed workers to the affected countries to report regularly to the POEA on the health status of their workers.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said they will be requiring recruiters to provide the government the conditions of the deployed workers in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, particularly when workers in the jobsites exhibit symptoms of the virus.

"The agencies should report at least one week prior to return of a worker from any of these countries," Baldoz said in a statement.

Similarly, the recruitment firms shall be required to coordinate with their respective employers on matters affecting the welfare and employment status of the OFWs in the said countries.

POEA records show that there are 72 OFWs in Guinea, 398 in Sierra Leone, and 202 in Liberia.

Baldoz also reiterated the existing deployment ban for newly hired OFWs in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone imposed since July 4.

The DFA raised crisis alert level 2 in the three countries last June 30. (HDT/Sunnex)

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