No bulletproof officials
We cannot feel the real essence of Crisis Alert Level 4 every time the Philippine government announces the Mandatory Repatriation Program for our Filipinos anywhere in the world.
Sense of urgency is hardly felt.
Our government officials repeatedly plead and ask our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are working in war-torn countries to avail of the said program, but the pleas fall on deaf ears. It has no effect on many.
In Yemen, commercial flights have already been suspended, no one is allowed to exit the country unless it is a government assisted repatriation. Since we do not have an embassy in Yemen, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has the jurisdiction over our Filipinos there. Coordination is difficult.
Out of desperation, the government, for the first time, reached the point of asking the OFWs there to issue a waiver that it was their personal decision to stay, and should take full responsibility of their refusal in returning home to the Philippines.
They are adamant not to return for fear of being unemployed.
According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, the government is planning to set a deadline for the remaining Filipinos in Yemen to benefit from its repatriation program.
Leave no one behind
Del Rosario admitted that he wanted to put a deadline because they were putting their people (embassy officials) there at risk, but the policy is they leave no one behind.
Del Rosario added Filipinos in Yemen could be divided in three categories—those who can be brought home; those who wait for the last minute; and those who do not want to go home.
For those who want to wait, he said, “if the situation becomes extremely dangerous … [then] maybe this will be the last time, we might not be able to get you if it’s too late.”
If our OFWs have the choice to stay, the embassy people who are mandated to rescue our Filipinos in war-torn countries have no choice but to follow and risk their own lives.
But the fact remains that they are no bulletproof officials. They too can be hit, endangering their lives during the operation. This is unnecessary if only the OFWs will obey.
They are also human beings who have their own families who love and care for them. Despite the pleas of their loved ones for them not to go on dangerous operations, they won’t listen to it. Because it is their duty that they have sworn to, and will fulfill that duty no matter what happens.
Negotiating for safe passage
Del Rosario personally went to those war-torn countries to urge and to continue asking our kababayan to return home. But more importantly, according to our sources, he was there talking to his counterparts, silently negotiating for the safe passage of our Filipinos.
Despite these efforts, reported or unreported in media; in the end, the government is always blamed. Sweeping statements like, they are too slow and useless. They were not given enough time and protection, and other false accusations made.
Even us in Bantay OCW Foundation, in our 18 years of serving our OFWs, this kind of scenario is tiring. Nothing has changed.
We thought—what if we’ll reverse the situation? Let’s say it is the OFWs who are the assigned government officials who will beg and plead to our kababayan to return home, how would they feel?
Rapid Response Team
Rapid Response Team was created specifically to help save and repatriate Filipinos overseas in difficult situations. We hope that our OFWs would be more cooperative and think of their safety first, and deal with the problems later.
(Susan Andes, also known as Susan K., can be heard over Radyo Inquirer DzIQ 990 AM, Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon. Audio/video live streaming is at www.us
tream.tv/channel/dziq. Website:www.bantayocwfoundation.org. Helpline: 0927-6499870/E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org@yahoo.com)
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