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OFWs from Israel

back in Philippines

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Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and infants arrive from Israel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in Pasay City on Oct. 18, 2023. Another group of 62 OFWs are back October 30, 2023. Photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler/PNA

About 62 Filipinos, including two infants, from Israel were back in the Philippines, October 30, 2023, according to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

DMW officer in charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said the returning Filipinos were the fourth batch of repatriates fleeing Israel amid its conflict with the Hamas militant group. He added that the batch consisted of 62 OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), around 32 hotel workers and 28 caregivers plus two infants.

He also said the DMW’s repatriation efforts, in partnership with the Overseas Welfare Workers Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), would continue.

The DMW’s labor attaché and OWWA’s welfare attaché continue to monitor the “rescue zones” in Israel where evacuated OFWs were brought, Cacdac said, noting that an augmentation team would be sent to the Middle Eastern state on Nov. 2 to boost the current personnel on the ground.

“Doon sa southern part na pinakamalapit sa Gaza border, ‘yun ang declared na ‘no entry zone’ ng Israeli defense forces, and ‘yung mga Filipino sa zone na ‘yun, nailikas sa safer ground. Kaya’t ‘yun ang pinupuntahan ng ating labor attaché at welfare officer, ‘yung mga rescue area (The southern part closest to the Gaza border has been declared a ‘no entry zone’ by the Israeli defense forces. The Filipinos in that zone were evacuated to safer grounds. That’s where our labor attaché and welfare officer go, to the rescue areas),” he said.

“Hindi ko muna binibigay siyempre ‘yung mga tukoy na rescue area (I will not, of course, disclose yet the identified rescue areas). We also want to respect the security and the privacy of our OFWs na nadadala (that have been brought) to safer grounds.”

124 OFWs seeking repatriation from Lebanon

Meanwhile, about 124 OFWs from Lebanon have sought repatriation, Cacdac said.

The Philippine Embassy in Beirut is recommending the “voluntary repatriation” of Filipinos living in Lebanon, as border tensions rise between Israel and Hezbollah in the wake of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Cacdac said the DMW is already exhausting all efforts to ensure that the OFWs would arrive in the country at the “soonest possible time.”

“Hindi rin magtatagal at magkakaroon na rin tayo ng first batch na uuwi from Lebanon (We will soon repatriate the first batch from Lebanon),” he said. “Wala pa tayong (There is no) specific date (yet) but we’re looking at the possibility of this coming week na mayroon nang maililikas (that there will be repatriates) from there.”

Cacdac assured that the government is ready to provide reintegration and post-arrival assistance to repatriated OFWs.

Two missing Filipinos

Cacdac said the government is also coordinating with the Israeli defense forces to locate the two missing Filipinos in Israel.

“We’re hoping na mahahanap pa rin sila (that they would be found),” he said.

A Reuters report on Oct. 26 quoted the Israeli government as saying that more than half of the estimated 220 being held hostage by the Hamas in Gaza have foreign passports, including “two from the Philippines.”

The Israeli Embassy in Manila said Friday the two remaining missing Filipinos in Israel were “likely” kidnapped by the Hamas group.

Ready for ‘worst-case scenario’

Cacdac, meanwhile, assured that the government is prepared in case the Israel-Hamas conflict worsens.

The DMW is ready to help OFWs, he said, adding that crisis and contingency plans are already “in place.”

“Kung mayroong effect sa ating mga kababayan itong latest developments, rest assured, nagsagawa na ng paraan (If these latest developments will have an effect on our fellow countrymen, rest assured that we are already exhausting all efforts),” Cacdac said.

– By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos/PNA