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Philippines bans workers from travelling to Qatar

Date of publication: 6 June, 2017

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Manila has banned workers from travelling to Doha on Tuesday, over fears about food security in the Gulf state as it grapples with an unprecedented diplomatic row.

The Philippines has halted the deployment of workers to Qatar amid an ongoing diplomatic rift between the gas-rich Gulf state and its neighbours, the country's Labour chief said on Tuesday.

Manila took the precaution as it fears that problems like food shortages could affect the more than 200,000 Filipinos in Qatar should the crisis worsen, Silvestre Bello suggested. 

On Monday, Saudi Arabia and several of its allies severed relations with Qatar, accusing Doha of allegedly supporting extremism.

"We are forseeing a possible problem in Qatar," Bello said at a news conference.

"For example, we know for a fact that Qatar does not produce its own food. If anything happens that they run out of food and food riots will take place, definitely our OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers)... will be the first victims."

Following Riyadh's decision to cut ties with Doha, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and the Maldives also opted to cut ties and isolate Qatar.

The Gulf states and Egypt said their decision includes closing transport links with Qatar, which relies on imports from its neighbours.

"That's why we really need to make preparatory measures to meet a possible exigency," Bello said, referring to Qatar's dependence on food imports.

Bello said around 141,000 documented Filipino workers are currently in Qatar as of last year, but added that the total number could surpass 200,000 if those without proper documents are counted.

The Department of Labour and Employment Secretary added that the ban will affect individuals whose papers have been approved or are scheduled to depart for Qatar.

Bello said government agencies would extend assistance to those affected.

Over 10 million Filipinos work or stay permanently overseas, part of a global diaspora that sends back billions of dollars annually to help prop up the economy.

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