Qatar OFWs not rattled by diplomatic crisis
MANILA, Philippines – A week into the blockade issued by the Saudi-led bloc of nations against Qatar, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the country are yet to experience any disturbance to their daily lives.
“It’s business as usual and no change since the issue started,” Qatar OFW Jennie Martin told Rappler when asked about the situation in the country now embroiled in the region’s worst diplomatic crisis in years.
Martin confirmed that some Qataris went panic-buying when the blockade was first announced, but most remain calm. "We are very much okay here and [resources are not scarce], so nothing to be scared of.”
Ramie Magdasal, a Filipino accountant in Qatar said too that “nothing has changed” since the blockade was announced.
Filipinos were scared at first, he said, but they immediately went “back to normal life.”
Asked if they are scared for the future, the two OFWs said that they believe Qatar will make it through the crisis.
“Lahat ng worries nasa social media pa lang. May nababasa ako sa Facebook na mga nag-stock ng tubig at supplies,” he said. (All worries are just on social media. I’ve seen people on Facebook stocking up on water and supplies.)
Many Qatari residents have been rushing to supermarkets to stock up on food items, reports say.
Fos, who leads the umbrella organization of some 215 Filipino organizations in Qatar, expressed fears that prices of basic goods and commodities might shoot up. “If this is prolonged and it escalates, we will be affected economically.”
Middle-East-based recruitment specialist Emmanuel Geslani said that “everything seems to be normal” for Filipinos in Qatar and that the Philippine Embassy has not reported anything unusual so far.
"At first the Filipinos reacted in similar fashion with the Qataris who stocked up on food and perishables during the first few days, but normalcy has returned to Qatar with food coming from other sources,” Geslani said.
Nonetheless, he said the crisis may affect Qatar OFWs, especially household service workers (HSWs) whose employers are from Middle East countries which issued a blockade against Qatar. They have to leave the country and their work. This might cause some OFWs to be laid off, Geslani said.
"Unless the diplomatic is resolved soon, a rippling effect will be felt by Filipinos in the Middle East by a lingering crisis between Qatar and the the 9 other Middle East countries,” he said.
Geslani branded as a “knee-jerk reaction” the suspension of deployment of Filipino workers to Qatar which the Department of Labor and Employment issued but immediately repealed. “I would have recommended first a consultation with the stakeholders of the industry,” he said.
On June 5, Monday, Gulf states – including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt – cut ties with Qatar. The Gulf countries accused gas-rich Qatar of supporting terrorism in the region. Qatar, in response, said that the accusations hurled against it were "unjustified" and aimed at putting Doha under political “guardianship.”
According to a 2017 population report from seasoned Qatar-based journalist Priya DSouza, there are as many as 260,000 Filipinos living in Qatar as of January 2017, making it the 4th biggest group of foreign workers in Qatar. (READ: 'FAST FACTS: How big is the Filipino community in Qatar?' )
Qatar also has the fourth biggest Filipino population in the Middle East, next only to Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait, according to 2015 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority. – Rappler.com