Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday said the Philippine government will stop renting ships to repatriate overseas Filipino workers from Libya, citing refusal by some OFWs to leave Benghazi at the last minute for the return to Manila.
“There will be no ship after this. It’s difficult . . . We don’t have the number to be able to support another ship,” del Rosario noted at the sidelines of the Asean High-Level Conference on Assistance for the Recovery of Yolanda-Affected Areas held in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City (Metro Manila).
Del Rosario said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had a similar experience in 2011 at the height of “Arab Spring” and civil war calling for the ouster of Libya’s autocratic ruler Muammar Gaddafi, when only 700 out of the 2,000 Filipinos who registered to be repatriated boarded a ship rented by the Philippine government in the first leg of their journey back to Manila.
He recalled that the schedule back then to move out the Filipinos from Libya “happened to be a nice day, so people were upbeat.”
“Then, a couple of days later, those same people who backed out are begging to be repatriated. That’s the way it goes. I think the Filipinos are always confident that we will come back for them,” del Rosario said.
Repatriation from Libya will continue but only land routes to the Tunisian border will be used.
Del Rosario said almost 150 Filipinos “every other day” are being taken out of Libya through that route.
Alert level 3 or voluntary repatriation was raised on May 29 in Libya because of fears about the ability the country’s young and weak military to contain two factions trying to take control of the country.
On July 20, alert level 4 or mandatory repatriation was raised after a Filipino in Tripoli was beheaded for being a Christian.
Meanwhile, del Rosario said the “last” Philippine-leased ship out of Benghazi will carry a few hundred Filipinos and 12 foreigners—an American, five Maltese, a Ukrainian and five Spaniards.
The ship was expected to dock in Misrata in Tunisia at 4 p.m., Thursday (Manila time), where more Filipinos are expected to board it.
It will then sail for a port in Malta, where a chartered plane will bring back the Filipinos to Manila.