Exclusive interview with the Philippine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato

Exclusive interview with the Philippine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato

February 03, 2021 - 08:54
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The Philippines and Libya have actually begun discussions on a bilateral labour agreement and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Libyan Embassy in Manilla have submitted a draft bilateral labour agreement, which is now being studied by our Department of Labour and Employment back in the Philippines. So, we’re hoping that in the next few months we would be able to sit down either in Tripoli or Manilla to discuss the said agreement and hopefully get to sign it. I was with the Labour Minister a few weeks ago and just last week I was with Deputy Prime Minister Kajman and we discussed the visit of a Libyan labour delegation to Manilla, so this is also being arranged and we hope that we would be able to sit down and discuss this agreement so that this would allow us to open the doors to renewed cooperation between our two countries with regards to manpower deployment.


As I’ve said, we are currently studying the draft labour agreement that was presented to us by the Libyan side and the draft includes cooperation and as you have mentioned, the electronic link that would allow Libyan authorities to access our database. So, as I’ve said this would be subject to discussions between our two sides and we’re hoping that we would be able to sit down, as I’ve said, within the year, whether here in Tripoli or in Manilla, to finalize this agreement.


The Ministry of Health has asked us previously for more medical workers, like nurses and other hospital workers to be deployed here in Libya. As you know at the height of the presence of the Filipinos here in Libya before 2011, we had, I was told, as many as 20,000 Filipinos mostly nurses and other hospital workers, but unfortunately the number has gone down to just 2,000 total in both medical and oil and gas sectors. We do have some teachers-faculty members in several colleges and universities across Libya. We have visited several hospitals also and private clinics and in all these visits we have been told that there is a need for more Filipino nurses to be deployed here in Libya


Unfortunately there are certain concerns that we are hoping we could address to allow us to open the doors for the deployment of medical workers back to Libya. For the past several years, our nurses here, most of them working in government hospitals, have been telling us of problems concerning the payment of their salaries and the delays in remittances. So these problems are outstanding, they’re still there and there’s a need for Libyan authorities to look into this matter and help us find solutions so that we could address these concerns of our people.


I’ve been talking to a number of our nurses. Most of them have been here since the 1980’s and they have been telling me that some of them have not received their salaries for months or even years and we know there are problems in Libya right now but we’re hoping that the Libyan government could assist them, because they also have families in the Philippines who need the funds that they are sending to allow them to survive back home as well. We have conveyed this issue with both the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health in the past two years that I’ve been here and we’re hoping that we can find solutions to these particular concerns and we’re confident that given the improving situation in the country right now, the government could now focus on this issue so that our people could be in a better position to continue serving the Libyan people.