Phl should move on to pluck out OFWs in Libya-Escudero

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 1, 2011-Senator Chiz Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights urged the government to move on that no single Filipino should be left behind in Libya to pluck out all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) trapped in the political and social turmoil in the North African country.


Escudero said that it is the government’s duty to look after the welfare of every single Filipino who are in troubled in Libya which has been reached and assigned for pick-up and evacuation, adding that the evacuation program adopted by the government should be a one-size-fits-all design to ensure their safety. "This should be the policy we ought to be adopting where the situation in Libya is a powder keg waiting to explode full blown," he said.


"The political tension there will be exacerbated by the social and ethnic problems among almost 81 tribes vying for domination. Blended together, this unrest will blow in the face of everyone in the Libyan territory," Escudero said.


Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recorded that there are 26,000 Filipinos working and living in Libya, saying that only 13,000 may be likely evacuated by the government. The 13,000 were reached through the efforts of the Philippine embassy there and others find ways to contact the personnel of the foreign mission on their own.


He said that a big number of Filipinos remained trapped in areas near the Libyan capital of Tripoli. In Al Kufrah alone, 100 OFWs were abandoned by their Korean employers and have been pleading for help in light of the sporadic shots and explosions being heard from surrounding areas.


The government has chartered planes from the Philippine Airlines and Qatar Airways where each flight to Manila costs P13 million and can accommodate 200 to 300 people per flight. The government is allocating P100 million contingency fund for the Libya situation where he called on key agencies concerned to cut all bureaucratic red tapes in the release of the OFW standby fund which is meant for situations such as this in Libya.


Escudero said that all mechanisms, legal, financial, physical to afford protection for OFWs should be interfaced with all efforts from all fronts. They are our modern heroes who keep our economy afloat. The government should protect them from threats and dangers anywhere and no stone should be left unturned in terms of getting them out of harm's way, if our OFWs get the perception of being neglected, they might become ambassadors of ill-will rather than goodwill in foreign lands.


Meanwhile, DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya reported that there were 2,000 OFWs from Libya who returned now in the country. He said that they are targeting to bring the remaining thousand Filipinos in Libya until Saturday by using ship that can accommodate 1,725 people, airplanes and other vehicles.


Today, the DFA is expecting 50 OFWs to come in the country and 32 OFWs tomorrow. (Jason de Asis)

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