15 Filipinos on crashed helicopter in Afghanistan: Castro
Five more Filipinos, three in critical condition and two still missing, were on the civilian helicopter that crashed in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, killing ten Filipino workers Sunday, Philippine Vice President Noli De Castro said on Wednesday, reported Xinhua.
De Castro, who received the information from the father of one of the fatalities who is in Kabul, has instructed the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to immediately verify the information.
"We learned from Mr. Eduardo Najera that the three overseas Filipino workers in the hospital have not been visited yet by our officials from our embassy in Islamabad. I immediately asked DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos to ask our embassy officials in Pakistan to verify this information we got and check on them," De Castro, concurrent presidential adviser on overseas Filipinos, told a press conference.
The Philippine government has a long-standing ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to Afghanistan due to security concerns.
De Castro said the Philippine government is conducting an investigation on how these Filipinos slipped into Afghanistan as illegal workers amid the government-enforced ban.
"We are now talking to the victims' families, getting information on the people who facilitated their relatives' deployment to Afghanistan," De Castro said.
Before the 2007 deployment ban, around 1,000 Filipinos had been working and residing there, but the figures went higher than 1,500 as many Filipino workers were able to find employment in the country as carpenters, drivers and electricians, De Castro said.
Manila has no embassy in Afghanistan, making it difficult for Philippine authorities to monitor the movement of Filipinos there.
Aside from Afghanistan, the Philippines also prohibits its nationals from working in Nigeria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
The Philippines is one of the largest labor exporters in the world. Currently, more than 8 million Filipinos, or 10 percent of the country's population, are working overseas, whose remittances back to their families act as a cornerstone of the Philippines' national economy.
Despite the work ban, many Filipinos would still work at military bases in Afghanistan due to higher salaries.
In March, a Filipino carpenter was killed after being hit by rocket fire outside the Kandahar Air Base, a key NATO airbase and the second biggest military installation in Afghanistan.