Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was due to return home Sunday night after a quick trip to Lebanon and Syria over the weekend to look into the repatriation efforts of Filipinos fleeing Damascus, especially with the conflict there expected to further escalate.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Del Rosario and Foreign Undersecretary Jesus Yabes flew to the Syrian capital of Damascus last Saturday, via Beirut to “review and intensify” the government’s ongoing efforts to repatriate all Filipinos caught in a civil strife there.
Del Rosario met up with Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis who arrived in Syria on Friday.
In a statement, the DFA said Del Rosario met with officials from the Syrian foreign affairs ministry and expatriates, Ambassador Hamzeh Dwalibi and Ambassador Majd Aldeen Nashed, to thank the Syrian government’s help in repatriating so far over 3,000 Filipino workers in the country.
“The secretary similarly secured the two officials’ assurance of the Syrian government’s continued support for the ongoing repatriation program of the Philippines, and in keeping all Filipino nationals who remain in Syria out of harm’s way,” the DFA said.
Del Rosario met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and got from him assurance of the safety of Filipinos across Syria.
Likewise, he spoke to Philippine Honorary Consul Wassim Nanaa to thank him for keeping safe overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) based in Aleppo and Idlib.
The foreign secretary also met with embassy officials on their updated contingency plan. He also visited the proposed safe house or alternate relocation center for Filipinos in the suburbs of Damascus which is now part of the contingency plan “in view of the increasing frequency of fighting in the capital.”
Del Rosario met with 103 OFWs taking refuge at the embassy’s Halfway Quarters to assure them Syria had once again agreed to waive all exit visa fees and penalties in connection with their repatriation and that they will be able to come home soon.