DFA: 143 more OFWs to be repatriated from Israel
Over a hundred more Filipinos from Israel are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the next few weeks to escape the intensifying war between members of the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian militant Islamic group Hamas, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday.
Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said in a PTV interview that 143 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Israel were to be repatriated this month, with the earliest batch seen arriving on Nov. 6.
On Wednesday, a Reuters report said Qatar had mediated an agreement between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, in coordination with Washington, that would allow limited evacuations from Gaza.
Citing a source briefed on the deal, it said the agreement would allow foreign passport holders and some critically injured people to leave through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, though there was no timeline for how long it would remain open for evacuation.
It said the deal was not linked to other issues under negotiation, such as hostages held by Hamas or pauses designed to ease a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is suffering from food, water, fuel and medical shortages.
Reuters quoted De Vega as saying that two Filipino doctors with medical aid group Doctors Without Borders were among the first group of foreigners selected to leave Gaza and cross into Egypt.
“The crossing should happen anytime now,” De Vega told Reuters.
2 still missing
On Monday, 60 Filipinos from Tel Aviv arrived in Manila and are set to receive financial, educational and employment assistance from the government.
According to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), 123 Filipinos, including four infants, have so far been repatriated from Israel since the war’s outbreak on Oct. 7.
De Vega said the two Filipinos believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas militants have remained missing.
They could also be among the 200 dead bodies still unidentified by the Israeli government, he said.
“We have no update yet but they are likely part of the more than 200 hostages because we have not found them in Israel,” he said. “There were about 200 dead during the first attack of Hamas on Israel last Oct. 7. There are still more than 200 unidentified bodies in Israel and Israel is still identifying them and we are hoping the two Filipinos will not be [among them].”
In the heavily bombarded Gaza Strip, 136 Filipinos are still unable to leave since Israel, which controls Gaza’s borders, has yet to open the Rafah border crossing, a humanitarian corridor to Egypt, to let foreigners out of the war zone.
While the majority of them were staying in southern Gaza near the Rafah crossing, De Vega said, nine Filipinos, including a nun, have returned to Gaza City where most of the fighting is happening.
“They said… they are growing impatient in the cramped environment in southern Gaza so they decided to return to their homes despite our warnings,” the DFA official explained.
He said the Filipinos who went to the border 20 days ago had since been receiving food aid from the international community, but that access to potable water and electricity — available just four hours a day—remained a problem in the area.
On Friday last week, the DFA lost contact with all Filipinos in Gaza after telecommunication lines were cut. They were able to resume communications with 126 of them the following day.
In Lebanon, where the DFA has called for a voluntary repatriation following increasing skirmishes at the Hezbollah-controlled southern border of Israel, six Filipinos are expected to arrive this Friday, De Vega said.
A total of 112 Filipinos in southern Lebanon are requesting repatriation, while the remaining 17,000 Filipinos in the capital, Beirut, had chosen to stay despite the possibility of the fighting reaching them.
“They say everything is normal, business as usual over there. And despite a lot of them being undocumented workers, they say it’s better to die in a war than to die of hunger,” De Vega said.