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Aug 09th
10 Pinoys killed in Afghan chopper crash PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Bobby Reyes   
Friday, 24 July 2009 09:12
10 Pinoys killed in Afghan chopper crash KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN, GMANews.TV 07/21/2009 | 09:44 AM Countries that have been declared off-limits to OFWs Afghanistan A total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers in Afghanistan took effect in 2007. Iraq OFWs were prohibited from going to Iraq in 2004 after a series of suicide bomb attacks and the abduction of Filipino truck driver Angelo Dela Cruz. Jordan Reports of widespread abuses against Filipino workers prompted the government to stop sending OFWs there in January 2008. Lebanon Following the war between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in 2006, Filipino workers were barred from entering Lebanon in June 2007. Nigeria Deployment ban in this country was implemented in December 2007 due to kidnappings and civil unrest in the Niger Delta. Several OFWs have protested the imposition of the deployment ban on these countries. But some workers sneak into these conflict areas using fake documents.- GMANews.TV The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday identified the ten Filipino workers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan and denied reports that some of them were transferred from Iraq. In a statement posted on its website, the DFA said the 10 were employees of US-based construction firm The AIM Group, Inc. They were among 16 out of 21 people aboard a Russian-owned civilian Mi-8 helicopter who died Sunday when the aircraft slammed into the tarmac at Kandahar Air Base shortly after takeoff at NATO's largest air base in Afghanistan, said Keith Stephens, spokesman for Flour Corp., a U.S.-based company that subcontracted the aircraft. Five people were injured, he said, adding that the victims were employees of another company. According to the DFA statement, the Filipinos were identified by their employer as: 1. Celso Q. Caralde (born in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental) 2. Ely I. Cariño (Cabusao, Camarines Sur) 3. Ernesto C. De Vega (Naic, Cavite) 4. Manolito C. Hornilla (Taysan, Batangas) 5. Leopoldo G. Jimenez Jr. (Lubao, Pampanga) 6. Mark Joseph C. Mariano (Floridablanca, Pampanga) 7. Marvin P. Najera (San Fernando, Pampanga) 8. Rene D. Taboclaon (Cagayan de Oro City) 9. Recardo E. Vallejos (Bislig, Surigao del Sur) 10. Noli M. Visda (Lubao, Pampanga) The employer said that the next of kin of each Filipino employee has already been notified of the death of their family member. Philippine diplomats from neighboring Pakistan have arrived in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to help identify the bodies and repatriate them, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos told The Associated Press. "After positive identification is made of the bodies in Kandahar, these will be sent to Kuwait and then repatriated to the Philippines," the DFA said. The company reportedly assured the families of the workers that each of the Filipino employees will be eligible for payments under the US Defense Base Act Insurance and other policies in place. It added that it will process the insurance claims as soon as possible and submit these to the insurance company. Not from Afghanistan Meanwhile, the company official clarified that all 10 Filipino workers were already in Afghanistan when they started working for AIM. Earlier, DFA spokesman Eduardo Malaya cited reports reaching his office that some of the 10 Filipino workers came not from the Philippines but from Iraq. "May natatanggap kaming report, mukhang iba sa kanila galing sa Iraq. May mga American services company na lumipat sa Afghanistan sila raw ay sumama ... 'Yan ang report na natatanggap namin, ang iba galing as Pilipinas, ang iba transferee from Iraq (We received reports that some of them were from Iraq. Some were from an American services company and were transferred to Afghanistan. The report was that some were transferees from Iraq)," Malaya said in an interview on dzRH radio. He declined to elaborate. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos on the repatriation of the remains of the Filipino workers and the deployment ban. Working despite the ban Afghanistan is one of five countries where overseas Filipino workers are forbidden to work. The others are Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Nigeria, although there are moves to ease the restrictions on Jordan, Lebanon and Nigeria. Despite the ban, many Filipino workers still end up employed at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, where US troops and allies are fighting militants. AIM and Philippine officials, however, maintained Tuesday that the Filipinos killed Sunday had in fact been working at the NATO base for several years. They did not return to the Philippines because the government had imposed a ban on travel to Afghanistan and they didn't want to risk losing their jobs, said Carmelita Dimzon, chief of the government's Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Undersecretary Conejos said that the DFA will look into how these workers got into the country despite the ban after the repatriation procedures have been settled. “The DFA will work with DOLE and POEA to find out how these workers ended up working in Afghanistan notwithstanding the deployment ban," Conejos said. He said the focus of the Philippine government is to attend to immediate concerns, which include the repatriation of the bodies and assistance that will be extended to the families. But Conejos said the priority now "is to work closely with the employer and the relevant authorities to identify the remains and cause their repatriation and ensure that all benefits due the workers are paid to their families." In Malacañang, President Arroyo directed the DFA to extend possible assistance to families of the crash victims. The thought of seeing Filipino workers getting killed in the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a cause for worry for Philippine officials amid criticisms against the government's increasing dependence on exporting labor to address the country's burgeoning unemployment problem. Last March, a Filipino carpenter was also killed in a mortar attack at a military camp in Afghanistan. [See: Pinoy carpenter killed, another injured in Afghanistan mortar attack] Like in Iraq and Lebanon that continue to attract OFWs despite the deployment ban, Afghanistan is said to be a magnet for the daring workers because of the better pay offered. Just last week, Manila airport authorities intercepted 13 workers bound for Dubai as tourists after learning that their final destination was Afghanistan. Vice President Noli de Castro said the 13 had been recruited illegally as carpenters, plumbers and electricians at the Kandahar base for a monthly salary of $1,300 — about 10 times what they would make back home. [See: 11 OFWs bound for Afghanistan turned back at NAIA] Nearly 10 percent of the country's 90 million people work abroad — many as nurses, maids, engineers, construction workers and seamen. Last year, overseas Filipinos sent home $16.4 billion, equal to about 10.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product, fueling domestic consumption that is a lynchpin of the economy. - GMANews.TV, with an an AP report

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