By Hannah Torregoza
Reelectionist Senator Nancy Binay on Tuesday urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to keep their emergency hotlines open for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Tripoli, Libya where the military tension is escalating.
Binay said it was imperative that government agencies, especially the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), are prepared to roll out contingency plans for the Filipino migrant workers now trapped in the Northern African country.
With thousands of migrant workers trapped in buildings and civilians caught in the fighting between rival military forces, Binay said the government agencies must activate emergency hotlines where families of OFWs can call and be updated of the safety status of their relatives in Libya.
Binay added that an inter-agency team composed of the DFA, DOLE, OWWA—including representatives from employment agencies— was necessary so that relatives in the Philippines could be apprised of the situation and the repatriation plans of the government.
“Sa ganitong sitwasyon, napakalaking bagay ang komunikasyon para makontak ang ating mga kababayan sa Libya, at para na rin sa peace of mind ng kanilang mga pamilya na hindi alam kung ano ang kalagayan nila doon (In situations like this, communication is essential for us to be able to contact our citizens in Libya, and also for the peace of mind of their families that do not know their situation is in that country),” she said.
With the help of recruitment agencies that have OFWs deployed in Libya, Binay said the government can put up hotlines and social media channels for easier and faster communication.
“DFA can setup an online info-center which will consolidate all Libya-related information and have it regularly updated,” she said.
“Yung mga agencies na nakapag-deploy ng OFWs sa Libya ay kailangan tumulong din sa pagbigay ng listahan sa DFA, at pag-contact ng kanilang mga migranteng nagtatrabaho sa iba’t ibang facilities doon habang di pa pinuputol ang komunikasyon, (the agencies that were able to deploy OFWs in Libya should help out the DFA by giving them the list and they should also try to can contact the migrant workers working in different facilities there while the communication lines are still down),” the senator pointed out.
Binay also wanted to know if agencies have provided insurance coverage for their workers, noting that it is their responsibility to give the DFA details and other pertinent information of OFWs including the company they’re working in, contact number/s, addresses, email address/es, etc.
Start repatriation plans
With the closure of the Mitiga Airport, Binay, likewise, urged manpower agencies to start planning for contingencies, including the possible evacuation of deployed OFWs.
Likewise, the lawmaker called on OFW families to inform DFA of their relatives who are staying in Libya undocumented.
“Documented man o di-rehistrado, tulungan din po natin ang ating mga kababayan sa Libya, at isama natin sila sa contingency plans, (Whether they are documented or undocumented, let us help our compatriots in Libya and include them in our contingency plans),” she added.
Authorities have said that there are more than 1,000 registered Filipinos in Libya, but about 90 percent of foreign/migrant workers in the country do not have proper travel documents, and seldom receive consular support.
The DFA has raised Alert Level 3 in several districts in Libya in the wake of escalations and violence that erupted on Monday.
In response, embassy officials urged Filipinos in Tripoli and nearby areas within a 100-kilometer radius of the capital to consider voluntary repatriation.