Wednesday, 23 February 2011 12:18
The Philippine Government’s Quick Reaction Team (QRT), led by foreign affairs official Ricardo Endaya, leaves on Tuesday night for Libya to oversee the possible repatriation of Filipinos who may volunteer to return to Manila following the raising to “Alert Level 3” of the crisis situation in the North African country by the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli.
However, no Filipino has been hurt in the ongoing anti-government protests in Tripoli, affirmed Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., but the overall situation has been such that the previous mere “alert” status has to be raised by the embassy.
About 26,000 Filipinos, mostly skilled workers and in the professions such as doctors, nurses, engineers, IT specialists and energy/oil experts, work in Tripoli, Benghazi and Al-Baida, Libya’s major cities, according to the DFA. Their employers are big companies who may have their own repatriation program which the Filipinos could also avail of in coordination with the QRT.
In past repatriation projects, the tasks were undertaken by Ambassador Roy Cimatu, Special Envoy on Middle East Preparedness.
With the heightened alert level, voluntary repatriation is open to Filipinos who desire to get out of Libya who must first inform their respective employers, and who will, in turn, coordinate with the Endaya-led Command Post at the embassy. Endaya was a former ambassador to Libya.
The Command Post has four sectors in-charge of Filipino communities in Northern, Eastern, Western and Eastern Libya, Conejos explained.
Conejos advised Filipinos in Libya not to leave their workplace or homes on their own without informing the embassy, as communications lines are “difficult” should they be stranded. Mentioning that while there are several exit points from out of Libya, Conejos intimated that safety of land travel is not assured and it is best that Filipinos stay put where they are and avoid crowds and protesters.
Because of communication problems in Libya, Conejos also announced that anxious relatives of Filipinos in Libya could contact the DFA hotline in Pasay City (02-834-4580) or DFA regional consular offices nearest their area.
Conejos said that the DFA has remitted a total of US$ 150,000 while the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration gave P25 million for this repatriation program. As in previous return-to-the Philippines project, the International Office of Migration is helping with flight arrangements, Conejos added.
By Gloria Jane Baylon-PNA
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