The government is turning to the 42,000 barangay chairmen throughout the country to help locate the thousands of overseas Filipino workers trapped in strife-torn Syria.
Over the weekend, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo ordered all barangay chiefs to seek out the families of the estimated 17,000 OFWs in Syria and get the contact information of their loved ones in the Middle East country where bloody confrontations between rebels and government forces have been escalating.
In his directive, Robredo gave the barangay officials until Sept. 2 to submit the names, contact numbers and whereabouts of the Filipinos in Syria to field officers of the Department of the Interior and Local Government or to the National Barangay Operations Office.
“We need the help of our punong barangays in identifying and locating some 17,000 Filipino workers in Syria so the government could promptly execute its contingency and evacuation plans,” he said.
The government has said that 95 percent of the 17,000 OFWs in Syria work as domestic helpers, with most of them undocumented but who would rather stay in the troubled country than lose their jobs.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has raised the security alert in Syria to level 3, which calls for voluntary repatriation to be paid for by the Philippine government.
Only a few OFWs, however, have responded to the government’s call to leave, while some have complained of the Philippine embassy’s slow response to their plight.
Robredo also urged people who may know the whereabouts of OFWs in Syria to forward the information to the DILG through its hotline text number 2299.
The text should follow the format: Type DILG, name of sender, name of OFW, address and contact number in Syria, and any additional information.