DFA: Assisting Filipinos in Libya becoming 'more difficult, even impossible to carry out' | Global News

DFA: Assisting Filipinos in Libya becoming ‘more difficult, even impossible to carry out’

/ 02:44 PM April 30, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The ability of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli to assist Filipinos in Libya is proving to be “more difficult or even impossible to carry out” as the fighting further escalates in the north African country, Chargé d’Affaires Elmer Cato said Tuesday.

“As the fighting gets closer to us, the ability of [the embassy] to respond to calls for assistance by Filipinos in distress becomes more difficult or even impossible to carry out,” Cato said in a tweet.

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“That’s why this early, we ask our kababayan (fellow Filipinos) to let us help lead them out of harm’s way,” he added.

Meanwhile, Cato said several Filipinos got “caught in the middle of a fierce firefight in Tripoli’s Salahuddin district.”

“Our kababayan were caught unaware and before they knew it, one side of the conflict had made it all the way to where they were. As soon as they heard the heavy weapons exchanges, our kababayan went down to the basement of their apartment building which they said is much safer,” Cato said in a Facebook post.

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“That’s where they were when we finally got in touch with them,” he added.

In a separate Twitter post late Monday, Cato said 13 Filipinos, including children, were trapped in a residential building along the street “where heavy fighting was earlier reported to have taken place.”

He later told INQUIRER.net, however, that the “fighting has stopped, but they opted to stay.”

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“We could not convince them to leave…We are really worried because fighting could start again any minute,” he added.

The foreign service official said that “the ability of the Embassy to respond to the request for rescue of a distressed Filipino is quite difficult if not impossible” in such situations.

“We are not bulletproof. We do not drive around in armored SUVs. We knew this could happen,” he said.

We had to scramble again this afternoon when we were informed that some of our kababayan were caught in the middle of a…

Posted by Elmer G Cato on Monday, April 29, 2019

“This is the reason why as early as two weeks ago we already have been calling on our kababayan here to consider our offer to bring them home while we still can,” he added.

Earlier, Cato has appealed to Filipino workers in the conflict-stricken country to evacuate to the embassy immediately.

However, he told INQUIRER.net that no Filipinos have evacuated to the embassy yet.

“Those who evacuated [from] Salahuddin are now staying with friends, coworkers, and relatives,” he said.

“This is one of the scenarios where there is little the Embassy could do. Once the fighting starts, all we could do is wait and pray that our kababayan would make it out of there alive and in one piece,” he added.

READ: Locsin to Pinoys in Libya: Evacuate to Philippine Embassy, I beg you

Alert level III is currently in effect in Tripoli and several districts in Libya in the wake of the continuing violence near the country’s capital.

When asked if the government is considering raising the Alert Levet to IV (mandatory repatriation), Cato said: “We will cross the bridge if we get there.”

So far, only 41 Filipinos have availed of the government’s offer of repatriation. There are around 1,000 Filipinos working and living in Libya, Cato earlier said. /ee

READ: Locsin to Pinoys in Libya: Evacuate to Philippine Embassy, I beg you

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TAGS: DFA, Elmer Gato, Filipinos in Libya, Philippine News, repatriation, Tripoli
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