23 Filipino workers due home from Syria

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MANILA, Philippines—Twenty-three more Filipino workers in Syria were scheduled to be repatriated by the government from that strife-torn Middle East country on Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The latest batch of repatriates would bring to 1,305 the number of Philippine nationals evacuated by the DFA from Syria.

In a press statement, the DFA said the workers were expected to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 1 on board Philippine Airlines flight PR 731 and Thai Airways flight TG 624 at 6:20 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

Twenty OFWs were taking the Philippines Airlines flight while the remaining three passengers were on  the Thai Airways flight.

In a report to the home office, the Philippine Embassy in Damascus said it was “exerting all efforts to mount daily repatriations and bring more of our kababayans out of harm’s way.”

“Airline seats have been difficult to come by as the exodus of foreigners, particularly Filipinos and Indonesia, has grown,” it said.

From the Syrian capital, “most of our repatriates fly to Dubai before taking connecting flights to Manila. If these flights are fully booked, they fly via a third city, usually Bangkok,” said the mission.

Olivia Palala, embassy charge d’affaires, said the cost of the transfer was not an issue. “What is important is that we bring them home safely,” she said.

The government spends an average of $4,000 for the repatriation of every OFW. Aside from airfare, the government also shoulders the OFW’s exit visa fee, among other expenses.

Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson, said a five-man “augmentation team” composed of personnel from the DFA headquarters in Pasay City  was sent to Syria recently to help in the repatriation effort. This is in addition to the Rapid Response Team sent earlier by the government.

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