Mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in Yemen ongoing—DFA
MANILA, Philippines—The mandatory evacuation of the 1,400-plus overseas Filipino workers and their dependents in strife-torn Yemen is ongoing, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Assistant Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya on Wednesday said they “have teams on the ground … assisting Philippine nationals in Sanaa, the port city of Aden and other places in Yemen.”
“It’s good that we were able early on to pre-deploy … They have been there ensuring the welfare of our nationals even before the situation worsened,” Malaya, also DFA spokesperson, told the Inquirer.
Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Ezzedin Tago, meanwhile, said despite the worsening security situation in Yemen, outbound flights from the Yemeni capital are still available.
“As the international airport is still open, we are conducting the repatriation program using commercial flights from Sanaa,” said Tago in a text message.
The Philippine embassy in the Saudi Arabian capital has jurisdiction over Yemen.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration head Carmelita Dimzon said “our OWWA team has been (in Yemen) for the past three months, monitoring developments” in the strife-torn Middle East country.
“We sent augmentation teams from the Department of Labor and Employment and OWWA when tension escalated,” Dimzon also said.
The DFA and OWWA are jointly shouldering the expenses for the repatriation of Yemen-based Filipinos.
Dimzon, however, said “the OWWA board has not met on the provision of cash grants” to the repatriates.
Earlier, the agency provided a one-time cash grant of P10,000 to the more than 9,500 Filipinos evacuated by the government from rebellion-torn Libya.
Last Sunday, the DFA raised to number 4 the crisis alert level for Filipinos in Yemen, citing the “worsening political and security situation” in that country.
Alert level 4 calls for mandatory evacuation and repatriation of OFWs and their dependents.
The government has imposed a ban on labor deployment and travel to Yemen.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, in a statement, said “in light of the worsening political and security situation in Yemen, we are asking Filipinos to get in touch with the embassy team stationed there so they could moved to a safer place, and then out of the country.”
Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is bordered by Saudi Arabia in the north, Oman in the east and the Red Sea in the west. The Gulf of Aden separates it from Somalia in the south.
Earlier, at least 65 OFWs in Yemen availed of the government’s voluntary repatriation program.
Another 120 Filipinos, mainly based in Sanaa and the port city of Aden, have enlisted for the program.
“Our problem is convincing our nationals to leave. Most are hesitant to leave except for overstaying ones, many of whom are jobless … We are reconciling the numbers as some registered with us but later retracted,” Tago disclosed.
Four months of deadly protests have left the 33-year-old regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh teetering.
On Saturday, Saleh was flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment after being wounded in an attack on his palace by anti-government demonstrators, said an Agence France-Presse report.
Protests in Yemen were initially against unemployment, corruption and the Sanaa government’s proposal to modify the constitution. The protesters’ demands then escalated to calls for Saleh to resign.