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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Nearing burial, Gulf War claims issues haunt RP govt unit

by Alexis Douglas B. Romero

MANILA–It was given a second lease at life; yet even as its death is imminent this October, issues surrounding money claims of Filipino workers affected by the Iraq-Kuwait war continues to haunt a government unit.
As the United Nations final deadline nears for the Philippine government to finally compensate victims of the 1990 Gulf War, critics of the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee remain suspicious that something is amiss in the committee’s operations.
“Deliberate” was how claimant Freda Contreras phrased the delay in informing Filipino workers and/or their families that they can still get money even as committee officials told her otherwise.
Officials of the committee, which is responsible for releasing UN money, are adamant there was nothing irregular about the processes of finding out who should and should not receive cash.
“The DFA did not neglect its duty in informing the claimants,” Michael Lorenzo of the committee secretariat told the OFW Journalism Consortium. He stands pat on the work of his agency, which is under the Department of Foreign Affairs, adding that majority of the claimants already filed their claims.
The minority, he added, includes those whose claims were disapproved “because they failed to produce or submit ‘sufficient’ documents to the committee.”
Lorenzo explained that of the 48,000 Filipino workers killed, maimed, or displaced when bombs and bullets flew in labor-receiving countries Iraq and Kuwait 16 years ago, some 46,000 “were able to file claims.”
The UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) tapped from a war reparations money pool to compensate migrant workers, depending on the gravity of the strife’s impact on their lives. It gave each government six months to satisfy the claims of their respective citizens affected by the war.It suspends governments that fail to remit the compensations within six months and report the amount distributed within three months.
Some claimants and migrant groups believe the UNCC stopped giving money to the Philippine committee because of such alleged delays in the processing of claims.
The committee appealed and was given a final chance to compensate claimants estimated to be 2,000.A press release dated May 3 this year from the Department of Foreign Affairs website, however, said that the UNCC would no longer entertain the Philippine government requests after the September 30, 2006, deadline.
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