Manila, August 12, 2003 (STAR) By Mayen Jaymalin  - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported yesterday a further drop in the number of Filipino workers deployed abroad and this could mean that the government may not meet its target of one million new overseas jobs for Filipinos this year.

DOLE statistics show that a total of 27,597 overseas jobs were lost in the first seven months of the year due to the lingering effects of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare and the United States-Iraq war.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 7, a total of 546,830 Filipino workers went abroad. This figure is 27,597 or 4.8 percent lower than the recorded deployment of 574,427 Filipino workers during the same period last year.

Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, however, expressed optimism that the government may still meet its target of one million new overseas jobs for Filipinos this year despite the drop in deployment.

She earlier said the recorded drop in overseas deployment in the past months appears to be "worsening," mainly because many countries abroad have yet to recover from the impact of SARS.

Labor sources said the drop in overseas deployment was recorded in traditional markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore, which were severely hit by SARS early this year.

Six countries that host large populations of Filipino workers temporarily banned further deployments earlier this year after the World Health Organization (WHO) included the Philippines on its list of SARS-affected countries.

The SARS outbreak affected 129 countries worldwide, including the Philippines.

The wage cut implemented by the Hong Kong government last April also contributed to the massive drop in the hiring of Filipino workers in the former Crown colony, labor sources said.

Overseas deployment in the Middle East, the leading destination of Filipino overseas workers, likewise recorded a decline following the US-Iraq war last March.

Prior to the SARS scare and the US-Iraq war, the country sent an average of 2,600 Filipino workers abroad daily; now, only 2,497 Filipino workers are deployed abroad each day.

About seven million Filipinos work abroad, remitting an estimated $8 billion to their relatives here every year, according to official estimates.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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