Travel restrictions

Myanmar’s OFW community appeals for travel restrictions to be lifted

MANILA, Philippines — The Community of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in Myanmar has called on the Philippine government to ease travel restrictions, citing missed opportunities, a desire to see their families and a sense of “safer” more d one year since the February 2021 army seized power in the country.

The community, which included both Filipinos still working in Myanmar and Filipinos planning to return to Myanmar, called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) to lift the country’s Level 4 alert status.

In July 2021, the DFA imposed Alert Level 4 on Myanmar due to the “worsening COVID-19 situation” in the country. Under this alert level, the DFA urged Filipinos to leave Myanmar as soon as possible, “as the country’s health system is nearing maximum capacity and may not be able to provide care. adequate medical treatment for Filipinos who fall ill in the coming years”. weeks.”

However, many Filipinos chose to stay because they had well-paying jobs. According to Rappler’s interview with community members on June 20, more than a year after the imposition of Alert Level 4 on Myanmar, some chose to stay even if they could return home, because they feared that they would not be able to easily return to Myanmar. .

The community submitted two petitions to the DFA – one in November 2021 and another in June 2022 – asking the DFA to lift the alert level. The June 6 petition was signed by 165 Filipinos in Myanmar and the Philippines.

The DFA has yet to lift the country from Alert Level 4, although COVID-19 cases in Myanmar have not returned to peak levels in July 2021. Myanmar has also reported less than 200 weekly cases. of COVID-19 since April 2022.

In an email to Rappler on June 28, the Philippine Embassy in Yangon confirmed that the June 6 community petition was addressed to the DFA in Manila. They also said Alert Level 4 was put in place due to “escalating violence”, not the COVID-19 situation.

“In the meantime, Alert Level 4 remains at last year, primarily due to the conflict and escalating violence in the country,” Brenda Hilongo of the embassy’s consular section wrote to Rappler. .

But members of the Filipino community said they felt “safe” in Yangon, as the country’s political situation had calmed down relatively since the start of the coup.

For now, Filipinos stuck in the Philippines lament that opportunities are wasted, while OFWs in Myanmar yearn to be with their families.

Filipinos are replaced by other foreigners who can go

Myanmar opened its borders to foreigners from April 2022. In their June 2022 petition, the Filipinos reported that other foreign workers have returned to major areas of Yangon, where key locations are “already normalizing” .

“Particularly in Yangon, international, private and public schools have opened their doors with face-to-face lessons. Banks, hospitals and transportation have also started to resume normal operations,” the petition reads.

Madelyn Adamos is the only Filipina to have worked locally at an international school in Yangon. All other Filipino employees at the school are working remotely from the Philippines, which has been operating since the school has been delivering classes online since the start of the pandemic.

However, the school has started to switch to face-to-face lessons, causing Filipinos in the Philippines to worry about their job security.

“What will happen to Filipinos who work from the Philippines? They will lose their jobs. Not just at our school – there are other international schools also opening face-to-face lessons. Many Filipinos are replaced by other foreigners who can go,” Adamos said in a mixture of English and Filipino.

Hindi reports on the case of the Philippines (I can’t return home to the Philippines because) I’m afraid of losing the opportunity to work here in Myanmar. Many Filipinos will lose their jobs and they will miss their families,” Adamos added.

Romy Mateo, a consultant in the oil and gas industry, and Maureen Capisnon, a sales manager at a bag production company, also reported that their companies have begun to consider hiring other foreigners since Filipinos cannot be deployed to Myanmar.

Meron din kasi kaming mga chinese and vietnamese working with us dito, pero nagtitiwala sila plus in filipino, dahil sa lengguwahe – nationalities bord natin ‘yan sa ibang – and our abilities and skills. Kaya ang company namin, hiningi tulong ko to reach out to others“, said Capisnon.

Need to learn special skills from our Filipino side. Kaya malaking bagay na makapunta dito my few cases,” she added.

(We also have Chinese and Vietnamese working with us here, but [the company] trusts Filipinos more, because of the language – which is our advantage over other nationalities – and our abilities and skills. That’s why my company asked me for help in reaching out to others…. They need the special skills of Filipinos. That’s why it’s important that our colleagues are allowed to come here.)

In their petition, the Filipinos estimated an average monthly salary of $3,325 (P183,272) among highly skilled OFWs in their community, ranging from teachers, engineers, creatives, managers and executives. “This approximates the amount of remittances potentially lost per month per OFW if [they] are unable to return to work,” the Filipinos wrote.

Meanwhile, OFWs in Myanmar hope to be able to visit their families in the Philippines with the assurance that they can always resume their work abroad.

May internet available, pero iba pa rin…. Mahirap ‘yung hindi mo nakakaharap pamilya mo nang face to face, ‘di mo sila mayakap…. Can epekto ‘yan his tao sanity eh, ‘yung hindi ka makakauwi. Lalo na sa ‘min na nasa gitna ka ng dagat“, said Mateo.

(There is internet available, but it’s different…. It’s hard not being with your family face to face, when you can’t hug them… Not being able to go home has an effect on your mental health , especially for us who are at sea.)

‘NORMALITY.’ The Filipino community in Myanmar attend mass together at the St. Augustine Catholic Church in Yangon, Myanmar on June 12, 2022.
“Safer” than before

More than a year after the military seized power in Myanmar in February 2021, members of Myanmar’s Filipino community told Rappler that the situation is now more “stable”.

“The situation here now, compared to last year, is more stable. It’s normal for the military to patrol, but it’s very safe and peaceful here now…. For more than a year, there have been no clashes. We have not recorded any instances where a Filipino has encountered a problem. said Jeff Libid, president of the Filipino community [email protected], based in Yangon.

“Maybe 99% are almost back to normal, but of course there is still bad news in the mountains and on the outskirts of cities,” said Joemer Ubiña, business development manager also based in Yangon.

Local media in Myanmar continue to report casualties of the junta in the countryside. Amnesty International reported that as of December 9, 2021, fighting between the army and other armed forces, as well as indiscriminate attacks and attacks directed against civilians mainly by the army, has resulted in the displacement of more than 284,700 people. The number of people killed in the army’s crackdown on its opponents has exceeded 2,000, according to a UN expert.

‘Yung America can hate crime. Mas maraming napapahamak [na Pilipino]. It naaapektuhan helps. Pero how come, kung ico-compare mo ‘yung incidents, plus maraming nangyayari sa kanila pero open sa kanila. Likewise, not napahamak na Filipino.

Jeff Libid, President of the Filipino Community

At press time, the DFA did not respond to comment on the latest update on the Filipino petition.

“We also continue to call on Filipinos still in Myanmar to adhere to Alert Level 4,” the Philippine Embassy in Yangon said. –