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Philippines embassy in Doha/Facebook

Philippines embassy in Doha

This story was updated on June 7 to reflect the ban has been scrapped

The Philippines has lifted a ban on nationals traveling to Qatar for work due amid a growing dispute between Gulf states, the local embassy in Doha has said.

It had only been in place for one day.

The move comes amid criticism from OFWs in Qatar about the ban, which they called an overreaction.

In a statement, Ambassador Alan Timbayan said:

“The Philippine Embassy in Doha continues to monitor developments in the region and calls on Filipinos to remain calm as there is no immediate reason to be concerned about the safety and security of Filipinos in Qatar.”

Temporary ban

Yesterday, the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the interim block would be in place until a government team studied the situation.

In a statement, he said:

“I temporarily suspend the deployment of our OFWs in the county of Qatar. This is for us to be able to assess the situation because there are so many wild rumors going around, saying things are not going well there. This suspension is for the welfare and protection of our OFWs.”

Government officials are being sent to Qatar and other Gulf countries to get an on-the-ground understanding of developments, Bello added.

Sanofi Pasteur/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The move was to affect Filipinos who were planning to move to Qatar for the first time, as well as nationals already working in Doha.

The statement continued: “We need to study first the situation. For now, the protection of our migrant workers comes first. The duration of suspension of deployment will depend on the assessment of the situation with close coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

Interdependence

The decision followed announcements by seven nations to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday.

Additionally, the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain said they were closing land, air and sea access to Qatar.

QNA

For illustrative purposes only.

Amid the uncertainty following the development, Qatar officials have stressed that the dispute will not affect the normal course of life for citizens and residents in the country.

There are more than 260,000 Filipinos in Qatar, one of the country’s largest expat communities. It is unclear how or even if the ban will affect them.

But thousands more OFWs are expected to come to Qatar in the coming months for work.

QNA

Signing of Qatar-Philippines agreements.

Two months ago, Philippines President  Rodrigo Duterte made an official visit to Qatar, where he met with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

He signed more than a dozen deals worth $206 million with the government and the private sector to secure some 6,000 jobs for Filipinos back home.

The Philippines’ economy relies heavily on remittances from its nationals working overseas.

In 2016, Filipinos based in the Middle East sent home $7.6 billion in remittances, Reuters reported.

Thoughts?

Cebu/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The low-cost Philippines carrier Cebu Pacific Air will stop flying to Doha at the beginning of July because the route is no longer financially viable, it said.

The airline has been flying direct to Qatar for just over two years, and announced that its last return flight from Manila to Doha will be on July 1.

It will also cease flying to Kuwait from mid-June and the Saudi city of Riyadh in early July.

3dom/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Passengers who are already booked on flights after these dates can transfer to another airline offering the same routes (subject to availability), book for an earlier flight with Cebu Pacific (also depending on availability) or get a full refund.

The airline “strongly advised” all such passengers to contact their travel agents or its hotline (+632 7020 881) to discuss their options.

Too much competition

Cebu Pacific is essentially halting the routes due to too much competition, according to Atty JR Mantaring, vice president for Corporate Affairs of Cebu Pacific.

In a statement this week, Mantaring said:

“Of late, other carriers have aggressively added more flights, which has resulted in substantial oversupply of seats and fares that are so low, hence making the routes unsustainable…

At this point, it makes more sense for us to re-deploy the aircraft used for our Riyadh, Doha and Kuwait service to routes where we can further stimulate demand and sustain our low fare offers.”

Cebu Pacific will continue to fly to Dubai and Sydney and may increase capacity to these cities, the statement added.

Crowded market

The airline began direct flights between Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha in June 2015.

A 436-seat, all-economy class Airbus A330 flies between the cities twice a week. It was initially popular when the route first started because of its competitive fares.

Wikimedia

Ninoy Aquino International Airport

While Qatar Airways also flies twice-daily direct flights on the same routes, prices were usually higher.

The national carrier increased its service to the Philippines’ capital in July 2015. That’s the same month that Cebu started its direct Doha-Manila service.

National flag carrier Philippine Airlines also began offering the same route earlier this year, in a bid to meet the needs of Qatar’s 260,000-strong Filipino population.

Philippine Airlines/Facebook

Philippine Airlines (PAL)

That carrier operates four times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday on A330 aircraft.

Its daytime departure and arrivals times, and its competitive introductory prices, has attracted many travelers.

Tickets range from QR885 to QR2,745 in economy, and include WiFi and meal service. Passengers can also check in two pieces of luggage, weighing up to 23kg each.

A business class option could be rolled out this summer.

Are you due to fly with Cebu Pacific soon? Thoughts?

QNA

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ended a historic visit to Qatar yesterday amid new deals to create nearly 6,000 jobs for Filipinos back home.

The official had arrived in Qatar on Friday, and signed four agreements with the Emir when they met yesterday.

They are in the areas of culture, health, investments and technical/ vocational training, QNA reports.

QNA

Signing of Qatar-Philippines agreements.

Some 13 agreements were also signed over the weekend between private firms in the areas of health, defense and tourism, according to the Qatar Tribune.

The newspaper quoted the Philippines trade and industry secretary as saying the deals were worth more than $200 million.

Ramon Lopez added that there is also the possibility of a new investment agreement of up to $1 billion with Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

Huge crowd

On Saturday, Duterte rallied a crowd of more than 7,000 OFWs at the Lusail multipurpose hall, starting off by crooning a duet with local singer Hanna Uddin.

Balitang Q/Facebook

OFWs cheer for President Duterte during his first Qatar visit

GMA News reports that during the hour-long talk, the official reiterated his tough stance against the illegal drug trade in his country.

Duterte also reportedly again attacked former US President Barack Obama, boasting that he was the only one to have the guts to insult him.

Meanwhile he praised current President Donald Trump, also a populist leader, as a “realist” and “pragmatic thinker.”

Qatar was the last stop for Duterte, who also visited Saudi Arabia and Bahrain this week, before heading home.

‘Follow the rules’

More than 260,000 Filipinos now live in Qatar, and the majority of those who voted in the recent elections supported Duterte.

However, while many expats had been hoping the official would push for improved rights in Qatar, he did not speak much about this during his trip.

3dom/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Instead, he implored OFWs in Qatar to remember that their host country is “taking care” of them. And he urged residents to keep in mind, “There are rules to be followed. Just follow the rules.”

He also reportedly told Qatari businessmen during a meeting on Saturday:

“Qatar is a very important country for us as it protects the national interest of Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos work here. We are ready to send more workforce if required.”

Thoughts?