Philippine ambassador to Syria Wilfredo Cuyugan replaced | Global News

Philippine ambassador to Syria Wilfredo Cuyugan replaced

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has recalled the country’s ambassador to Syria, reportedly over differences in the assessment of the situation in that troubled Middle East country.

Ambassador Wilfredo Cuyugan, who has been quoted in media interviews as saying the situation in Syria was still “relatively safe” for Filipino migrant workers, has been recalled to the home office.


Citing the need for an “operative” with extensive experience in the repatriation program, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has named Executive Director Ricardo Endaya of the DFA’s migrant workers’ affairs office as the country’s acting envoy to Syria.

Alert level


The Department of Foreign Affairs recently raised crisis Alert Level No. 3 in Syria—meaning, all Filipino workers are urged to leave that country. Repatriation efforts are underway.

“Because we are on repatriation mode, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has decided to replace Ambassador Cuyugan,” DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said on Tuesday.

Asked about Cuyugan’s new assignment, Hernandez said they “don’t know yet.”

“But I understand he is due for recall (next September),” Hernandez added.

DFA insiders claimed Cuyugan’s relief came after he issued statements saying it was relatively safe for OFWs to stay in Syria, contrary to pronouncements made by Malacañang.


In a radio interview, the diplomat was quoted as saying many reports about the situation in the Middle East country were “somehow exaggerated.”


On Tuesday, the Saudi Arabia-based OFW group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) lauded Cuyugan’s relief.

John Leonard Monterona, M-ME regional coordinator, told the INQUIRER the envoy “deserves to be replaced because he is incompetent.”

Monterona assailed Cuyugan, for, among other things, allegedly “ignoring the appeals of at least 60 OFWs in Damascus who had expressed interest in being repatriated shortly after the uprising started.”

“In brushing aside their requests for repatriation, he allegedly told them they had nothing to worry about,” Monterona added.

The other day, the DFA said the embassy was processing the repatriation papers of 108 overseas Filipino workers in Syria.

Normal, but…

An estimated 17,000 OFWs, many of whom are undocumented, are based in the troubled Middle East country.

Last week, DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. told a news conference that “while it is true that the situation (in Syria) seems normal, this is only on the surface.”

“There is a very, very strong, palpable military presence in certain sections of the country, particularly in Latakia and Homns…My assessment (is)…the security situation there is volatile in the sense that there is normalcy on the surface, but there are very, very strong undercurrents of unrest and instability,” said Conejos.

According to Conejos, “that is precisely the reason why the department decided to raise crisis Alert Level No. 3” in Syria.

The six-month pro-democracy uprising in Syria has reportedly left more than 2,000 people dead.

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TAGS: “relatively safe” situation, Ambassador Wilfredo Cuyugan, DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., Filipino migrant workers, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Syria
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