In war-battered Gaza, Filipinos mull on the price of working abroad

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With no end in sight, the red-hot Israel-Palestinian conflict completes its second week on January 11, 2009 with nearly 900 reported dead and many more wounded, about half of them are innocent non-combatants of war. Regardless of which side we may be in the decades-long hostilities, the clear message is that racial intolerance, religious bigotry, and territorial disputes don’t bring any good.

The duplicity in the exercise of diplomacy, the use of terrorism, and the rejection of a two-state solution by hardliners remain as huge stumbling blocks in bringing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The interference of countries that benefit from an unstable Middle East is partly to blame.

Civilians living in the Gaza Strip are in a crossfire that disrupts their lives and threatens their survival. In the bloody exchanges of a protracted cycle of violence, the innocents bear undeserved suffering. Among them are workers and migrants from the Philippines who come to this troubled part of the world mainly for economic reasons.

We can only sympathize with our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who put their lives on line to seek ways to survive and help their families back home. We can only ask for the cessation of the killings—an immediate ceasefire which is unheaded at this time.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA,) 16 Filipinos have left the war-torn area and arrived in Manila. Of the 121 still left in Gaza, 69 expressed their desire to evacuate, but the fierce fighting prevents them to do so. It is uncertain if this number includes the illegal Filipinos workers who take risky jobs in the shadows.

This brings us to the problem of our government which sorely lags behind in helping the people to be self-sufficient back home. If jobs and economic opportunities exist in the country, then there are few reasons for our kababayans to insist working in dangerous places like the Middle East. The cost to pay for family separations, isolation, and loneliness is incalculable. It’s sad that our cash-strapped government is in a losing policy of sending Filipinos abroad for the money they’ll earn for the nation’s economy. With no sign of stopping, our workers continue to suffer on their own, at times trapped in harm’s way.

Just to land a job, no matter how menial, has been a source of hope and pride among poor Filipinos who ignore the risks of travel outside the country. Yet, this is the reality of our society faces. Adding to the 10 million Filipinos already deployed abroad, a restless stream still wants to leave for the money.

The government must do better than what our officials think is good enough. There will be a season that host countries won’t justly pay for the services of Filipinos. To keep the country economically alive there’ll be a time when going abroad will be one of our most dreaded options. (Photo Credits: Aryty; Rusty Stewart x 7 photos) =0=

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