Syria agrees to quickly process exit visas of Filipinos

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05:17 PM September 5th, 2013

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By: Leila B. Salaverria, September 5th, 2013 05:17 PM

Undersecretary Rafael Seguis. AFP file photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Syrian government has agreed to quickly process the exit visas of Filipinos hoping to leave the country amid recent escalating conflict, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis told lawmakers on Thursday.

Seguis, speaking at the House hearing on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ budget, said the Syrian government has been rapidly processing requests for exit visas.

“It used to take several days. Now, they agreed to process it within 24 hours,” Seguis said.

Of the 3,333 remaining overseas Filipino workers in Syria, 160 have signified their wish to be repatriated, Seguis said. They were expected to be transported to the border on Thursday morning and brought to Lebanon, he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said some of the OFWs have chosen to remain in Syria, “but their minds keep changing everyday.”

“So we’ll see what happens,” Del Rosario added.

Tension in Syria has escalated with reports that the Syrian regime initiated a chemical attack that killed over a thousand people, including hundreds of children.

The United States has threatened military action against Syria, after saying it found proof that the Syrian government used sarin nerve gas.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Evan Garcia said the Philippines has been observing a policy of “strategic silence” regarding the US plan to attack Syria.

Garcia made the statement when asked by Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello about what position the country would take considering that the US’ possible unilateral attack against Syria could give rise to a refugee situation involving OFWs.

Garcia said the Philippines should be in the position to talk to all sides in ensuring the safe passage of OFWs in an evacuation.

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