Ople Center wants jobs for Mindanao refugees
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization actively involved in helping distressed overseas Filipino workers, called on the government to provide emergency employment and livelihood assistance to displaced families in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay as a preventive measure against human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
Former labor undersecretary Susan Ople, president of the BFO Center, noted that conflict areas in Mindanao have become a fertile ground for human trafficking activities due to lack of jobs and economic opportunities.
“Most of the OFWs back from Syria and Jordan who have sought our help come from conflict-ridden areas in Mindanao. They were promised jobs as domestic helpers in Syria or Jordan for US$200 a month and they accepted such offers without knowing where these countries are or what their rights were as migrant workers,” Ople said.
One of the OFWs currently seeking help from the Ople Center for rescue and repatriation from Syria hails from Isabela City, Basilan. In her letter to the Ople Center, a 23-year old OFW named “Liza” said she and other recruited women left Zamboanga for Manila and then were brought to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. They were instructed to hide their working visas in a packet of sanitary napkins for retrieval once the board the plane. “Liza” thought she was headed for Jordan but realized that her papers were meant for Syria.
The anti-trafficking advocate expressed fears that the continued escalation of hostilities in Mindanao would lead to an even higher incidence of human trafficking in the region.
The OFW advocate disagreed with calls for an all-out war policy in Mindanao. “When the body count keeps rising, it is difficult for the concerned parties to keep emotions in check because the pain is very raw and the anger very real. Unfortunately, there are syndicates that are actually out to profit from the pain and sufferings of others.”
She said the Ople Center supports the proposal of Senator Antonio Trillanes for a Senate probe into the Basilan encounter so that the families of slain soldiers can have the answers that they deserve. “This may be the time for policy-makers and legislators to agree on a unified approach to our collective dream of a peaceful and progressive Mindanao.”