Gov’t scrambles to get Filipinos out of Syria


06:35 AM September 3rd, 2013

By: Jerry E. Esplanada, September 3rd, 2013 06:35 AM

DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The government will further intensify the mandatory repatriation of the more than 3,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) still in strife-torn Syria, according to the spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

DFA Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez on Monday told reporters that an additional 160 OFWs would be arriving in Manila this week.

“They have been issued exit visas by the Syrian government and have safely crossed the border to Lebanon,” he said, adding that “more border crossings (by Philippine nationals) will be undertaken in the coming days.”

“The Syrian government has assured them of its full support and complete assistance,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the foreign office will continue to enforce the government’s mandatory repatriation program to ensure the citizens’ safety.

“We’ve been urging our citizens in Syria to get out of harm’s way and seek immediate repatriation since we raised crisis alert level 4 (in March 2011)… we continue to urge them to seek immediate repatriation for their own safety and well-being,” he said.

Last Friday, 14 more OFWs were flown back to Manila, bringing the total number of repatriates to 4,567 since the civil strife in Syria began.

In a statement, the DFA warned that “the security situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.”

“For assistance, they may call the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, tel. +963-11-6132626 and +963-96-8955057. Relatives of Filipinos who are still in Syria may provide the DFA with information on their present location and contact details in the Middle East nation. They may contact the DFA’s 24-hour Action Center at (02) 8343333,” the agency said.

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