Contingency plans for the massive repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remain in place as the situation in the Middle East is still unstable, Malacañang said on Monday.
“Per initial report of the Committee to Oversee the Repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East, [Environment] Secretary Roy Cimatu, special envoy to the Middle East, is now in Qatar implementing repatriation on the ground and constantly assessing the situation in Iran, Iraq, Libya and other neighboring states,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“The situation in the area is still unstable and our contingencies for massive repatriation are still in place,” he added.
The first batch of evacuees, numbering 14, was transported from the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq to Doha, Qatar en route to Manila.
“This number may increase, however, as the embassy continues to call on our countrymen who wish to go home,” Panelo said.
The Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Gabriela Silang was in Malta and ready to sail anytime to nearby countries where Filipinos were in danger.
“We are closely monitoring Kuwait, which just raised its security level to maximum last Jan. 9, 2020,” Panelo said.
He advised Filipinos in Iraq and in Tripoli, Libya to contact the nearest Philippine mission to facilitate their mandatory evacuation.
“The Alert Level in Tripoli, Libya, up to a 100-kilometer radius, was raised to 4 (mandatory
evacuation). Outside the 100-kilometer radius, it remains at Alert Level 2,” Panelo said.
“We will provide further updates as soon as we receive and collate relevant data. The Filipino people are assured that the Philippine Government is committing all its efforts for the protection of the safety and security of our citizens in the Middle East,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said a company-sized contingent would be deployed to the Middle East to assist in the evacuation of OFWs.
Lorenzana said the contingent would sail on the Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the BRP Davao del Sur to the Middle East.
Apart from the naval assets, aerial equipment were also set ready for deployment, including two C-130 aircraft and one C-295 transport aircraft.
The Defense chief said Cimatu that the first batch of OFWs would arrive in Manila on Tuesday.
According to Lorenzana, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Hans Leo Cacdac also left Manila for Saudi Arabia on Monday “to personally see to the welfare of our OFWs in the Middle East and assist in the repatriation effort.”
“Requests for repatriation from OFWs in Iraq, Libya and other Middle East hotspots have been received by our Embassies and Consulates and their exit clearances are now being processed,” he said.
He added that Cimatu, along with Philippine Ambassador to Qatar Alan Timbayan, Labor Attaché David Dicang, Vice Consul Benjamin Celedio Jr., Administration Officer Cotawato Arimao and Consul General Roussel Reyes — are exploring all possible routes of repatriation by commercial airlines from Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq to Doha, Qatar and then to Manila.
With a reports from DEMPSEY REYES