By Roy Mabasa
The Philippine government is now doubling its effort to seek the release of the three Filipino engineers who were abducted in Libya on July 6 even as fresh clashes were reported around Tripoli, forcing the temporary closure of its main international airport.
This developed as Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mama-o met last week with Libyan Presidential Council head Fayez Al-Sirraj in Tripoli to discuss the plight of the three Filipino workers.
Following orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, Mama-o flew to Libya on Wednesday to secure the release of the three Filipinos who were forcibly taken with a Korean national at their worksite in Al-Hasawna man-made river project.
While no other details of the meeting were made available, the Libya Monitor, a Tripoli-based online news platform reported that the two sides also discussed Philippines’ willingness to provide Libyan hospitals with medical cadres and training for its medics.
“We appreciate the steady relations we have with the Philippines especially that the medical cadres working in Libya have always remained in their positions favoring help to getting away from trouble during rough times,” Al-Sirraj said in the report.
There are an estimated 4,000 Filipinos who opted to stay in Libya despite the widespread violence, citing lack of jobs back home
With Mama-o in the meeting with Libyan officials were Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Ezzedin Tago and Philippine Embassy in Tripoli Charge d’Affaires Mardomel Mellicor.
Mama-o was previously noted for his role in brokering a new labor pact between the Philippines and Kuwait that provided better working conditions for Filipino household workers in that Gulf state.
The agreement came at the height of the diplomatic faux pas triggered by the circulation of a video showing Philippine Embassy officials rescuing distressed Filipino domestic workers from the households of their employers in Kuwait.
Tago, an Arabic-speaking former envoy to Saudi Arabia, was part of the negotiating team that secured the release of OFWs Angelito dela Cruz and Bobby Tarongoy who were abducted in Baghdad in 2004.
In a cabinet meeting last month, President Duterte formed a task force composed of Mama-o, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Mindanao Development Authority chair Abdul Khayr Alonto to secure the immediate release of the abducted Filipino workers.
As of this writing, Cimatu and Alonto are reportedly en route to the region to join Mama-o, pending the reopening of the main airport in Tripoli.
Authorities temporarily suspended the operations at the Mitiga International Airport after renewed clashes erupted between warring factions around the capital last week.
Reports said two missile projectiles landed near the control tower at the Mitiga Airport prompting authorities to evacuate passengers and redirect all flights to Misrata Airport, some 200 kilometers east of Tripoli.
On August 2, a video surfaced showing the three Filipinos and the Korean in an unknown place in the middle of the desert, appealing to their respective governments to rescue them without any delay.
In the video, the abductees claimed they were suffering from lack of food, water, and health services while begging for their lives being the sole breadwinners for their families.