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Special envoy Roy Cimatu (left) seen here with a Philippine consulate official in Nigeria

Aquino shines light on overseas Filipino safety reporter, Manila

September 08 2010

President Benigno Aquino III has extended the term of a committee dedicated to looking after the safety of Filipinos in the Middle East and Africa.

Through an executive order, Aquino has extended by six more months, or until Dec. 31, 2010, the work of the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Committee (PMEPC), in view of continuing tensions.

Aquino said special envoy Roy Cimatu will look into the situation of workers in high conflict areas like war-torn Iraq and pirate-infested Somalia.

Scalabrini Father Edwin Corros of the Philippine bishops' apostolate to migrants welcomed the development.

"It shows the government's concern for the welfare of Filipino workers abroad," said Father Corros, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI).

He said ensuring the safety of Filipinos abroad will also put their families in the Philippines at ease, which is the ECMI's primary concern.

The term of the PMEPC actually expired on June 30, 2010, but the executive order is retroactive to July 1, 2010.

The PMEPC was created in December 2002 ahead of the US-led invasion of Iraq to provide contingency aid to some 1.4 million Filipino workers in the Middle East who may be affected by the war.

The executive order cited "an urgent need for the PMEPC to continue providing assistance … in addressing the concerns of the Philippine government about the piracy problem in Somalia."

Some Filipino sailors remain in captivity aboard their respective hijacked vessels near the shores of Somalia, the order said.

The order also cited the need to attend to the "existing conditions of the expatriate workers in Iraq."

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