Ensure safety of Filipinos in Middle East – senators

(PNA) MANILA – Senators on Wednesday called on government agencies to ensure the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who might be in danger due to the conflict between Israel and the Hamas group.

This was after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the death of two Filipinos who were among the six nationals reported missing.

One of the fatalities was a newly married 33-year-old Filipino worker from Pangasinan while the second was a 42-year-old man from Pampanga.

Senator Imee Marcos said the government’s primary concern should be the safety of nearly 25,000 OFWs, as well as Filipino tourists and pilgrims now in Israel and the more than 2 million Filipinos throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also warned of the possible “long-term consequences” of the government’s approach to making decisions to uphold its interests in connection with the situation in the Middle East.

“Our distance from the main arena of conflict will not insulate us from violence. As an ally of the United States, which has committed military support to Israel, we risk retaliatory attacks from militant Hamas sympathizers that a protracted war will likely provoke,” she said.

“We import practically all of our oil supply from the Middle East. Despite the recent assurance of six OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) countries to support market stability, we remain vulnerable to the winds of geopolitics.”

Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla said time is crucial in saving Filipinos in Israel.

“Kaya dapat siguruhin talaga na gagamitin natin ang lahat ng pagkakataon at oportunidad para madala natin sila sa mabuting kalagayan (That’s why we really need to make use of all the chances and opportunities to ensure their safety),” Revilla said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said the government could provide immediate assistance and support to Filipinos affected by the conflict, including their families, citing the availability of an emergency repatriation fund amounting to PHP8.9 billion.

“May PHP8.9 bilyon na alokasyon sa Emergency Repatriation Fund na nasa pangangalaga ng DMW para sa kasalukuyang taon at nasa PHP693.5 milyon o 7 percent pa lamang ang nagagamit dito. Nasa kabuuang PHP9.1 bilyon ang nakaantabay na gastusin para tustusan ang agaran nilang pag-uwi (The Department of Migrant Workers has an allocation of PHP8.9 billion for its ERF this year and they were able to use PHP639.5 million or 7 percent. There is still PHP9.1 billion remaining that could be spent for their immediate repatriation),” Estrada said. (PNA)