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24 February 2011

DFA: Teams ready to assist Filipinos in Libya

The That-El-Emad towers built by Daewoo Corpor...Image via WikipediaA February 24, 2011 press release prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said today that the teams from the DFA office in Manila, and the Philippine Embassies in Cairo and Tripoli are in place to provide assistance to Filipinos in Libya in light of escalating tensions in the area.

The six-man team from the DFA in Manila led by DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) Executive Director Ricardo Endaya are expected to arrive in Tripoli today to augment the personnel complement of the Embassy and assist the Filipinos who are availing of the voluntary repatriation program implemented by the Embassy and the DFA.

A team from the Embassy in Cairo led by Consul General Renato Duenas, Jr. is already in place at the Egyptian border, and has set up a command post to receive and provide assistance to Filipinos who will be exiting Libya from Benghazi, Al Baida and environs.

It has made contact with an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Engineer Judith Tuvera who crossed from Tobruk in Libya to Alexandria with her employer. It is also coordinating with 24 OFWs planning to cross from Tobruk to Alexandria today.

Meanwhile, a team led by DFA-OUMWA Principal Assistant Melvin Almonguera will arrive in the Tunisian border at 5 p.m. (Manila time) to also set up a command post to assist Filipinos who will be exiting from Tripoli and environs. The Tunisian government has approved landing rights for aircraft chartered to fly out OFWs and visa upon arrival.

Together with the Filipino community coordinators, the team from the DFA and the Embassy will reach out to the Filipinos and move them to safe relocation sites in Tripoli, Benghazi and Al Baida. The Embassy has activated relocation sites in Tripoli and Benghazi for the Filipinos—the Philippine School and the St. Francis Catholic Church in Tripoli and the two Philippine Schools in Benghazi.

For Filipinos employed by companies with repatriation plans, they are encouraged to join the effort. The DFA and the Embassy is encouraging the companies to commence repatriation efforts, in tandem with the Embassy.

Repatriates from Tripoli will proceed to Tunisia while those from Benghazi and Al Baida will proceed to Alexandria in Egypt by land. From there, they will catch flights to Manila.

The DFA has officially requested the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for assistance in arranging commercial flights and ensuring that OFWs are included in any IOM-sponsored evacuation of migrant workers from Libya.

The DFA has released an initial amount of US$150,000 to the Embassy, while DOLE has committed P25 million to assist in the repatriation efforts. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will release P100 million for the same purpose.

Meanwhile, Embassy officials and community coordinators in Libya are contacting the Filipinos to inquire and to inform about their condition and inform them of the Embassy’s voluntary repatriation program. They have also advised Filipinos not to venture outside, especially if tensions are nearby.

The DFA has activated a 24-hour hotline number for families of Filipinos based in Libya. The hotline number is 834-4580.