Manila, Philippines – A group of Overseas Filipino Workers had a meeting on Monday where they aired their flaks and grievances regarding the function of the Philippine embassy in the midst of the US-led attack on Syria.
Filipinos said that they have not heard yet from the embassy its contingency plans regarding their safety in the amid looming US missile attack. Most of them had already distressing experiences and have to hide anywhere safe when Iraq detonated scud missiles in the Kingdom during the Gulf War.
Now, as another extremely violent civil war where the government forces clash with the rebels, Filipinos are obviously worrying about their welfare and safety.
However, Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago informed OFW Congress President Alex Bello that the Philippine embassy, as well as the consulate in Jeddah, has contingency plans and that the Philippine government is closely monitoring the developments in Syria.
“At present, there is no indication of a clear danger impacting countries neighboring Syria,” Tago said.
It was reported that US President Barack Obama has called for punitive action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar AL-Assad due to the chemical weapons attack that killed thousands of lives on August.
With this, the Philippine government is pushing to get more Filipinos out of Syria before US attacks.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said on Friday that there are still 2,228 Filipinos in Syria who have yet to avail the government’s repatriation program.
The Department of Labor and Employment advised the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) to remind OFWs to remain calm and vigilant amid reports of planned attacks in Syria.
Moreover, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz also said that the Philippine embassy in Tel Aviv has already reactivated its Philippine contingency plan for OFWs in case of emergency occurs.
Baldoz added that the government has been repatriating OFWs, mostly domestic helpers, from Syria to ensure their welfare and safety.
“The welfare and interest, as well as the safety of our OFWs in Israel, and in any country of destination for that matter, are foremost and takes the highest consideration in times of conflict, calamity, or turmoil. But I also call on our OFWs to cooperate with the government, refrain from unnecessary activities that may pose risks, and be on guard,” Baldoz said.
On the other hand, the Philippine Embassy in Damascus has vowed to continue and even intensify its efforts to help and repatriate Filipinos from Syria as the security situation gets worse.
Jonah Marie T. Rosal
ABCom, Leyte Normal University