PH ready for mass repatriation of Pinoys from Israel if situation calls for it –OWWA chief

Published May 17, 2021, 1:41 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The Philippine government is ready to carry out a mass repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Israel in case the conflict there further escalates, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said on Monday, May 17.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac gives updates on the situation of Filipinos in Israel during the May 17, 2021 Laging Handa briefing. (Screengrab from Facebook live)

“Ang ating pananalig ay mag-improve ang situation, na hindi na humantong sa mass repatriation (We pray that the situation improves so that we would no longer have to conduct mass repatriation). [But] rest assured, we stand ready together with the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to conduct mass repatriation efforts,” Cacdac said during the Laging Handa press briefing.

He said that based on their past experiences in other countries of conflict like Lebanon and Libya, the opposing forces have always allowed the mass repatriation of OFWs or innocent civilians in general for humanitarian reasons.

“If and when the situation escalates or deteriorates into further conflict or God forbid, bloodshed, nandyan na ang usapin ng mass repatriation (the option of mass repatriation is there).”

Reports said that the fighting between the forces of Israel and Hamas have grown more ferocious the past few days, with rocket attacks persisting from both sides.

But Cacdac said the Filipinos in Israel have remained “in general, safe and sound” thanks to their access to bomb shelters, which most buildings in the state have. He said most OFWs there are domestic workers who stay indoors with their employers.

For those who do not have access to bomb shelters, the OWWA chief said officials from the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) are ready to provide assistance.

“Tinutulungan po ng ating POLO, ng ating Embahada, na mailikas sila sa safer grounds, sa mga bomb shelters (The POLO and the Embassy is helping them get to safer grounds, to the bomb shelters).”

“Pero in general, well walang napabalitang nasaktan o nasawi. And in general, safe and sound po ang mga OFWs natin sa Israel (But in general, no casualties among OFWs have been reported. And in general, our OFWs in Israel are safe and sound),” Cacdac said.

Although there are nearly 30,000 OFWs in Israel, he said that those in the “immediately affected areas” of the fighting just number around 400. This is composed of the estimated 300 OFWs in Ashkelon and Ashlon in Israel, and the estimated 100 in Gaza Strip. (With reports from Ariel Fernandez)