By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 02/01/2011 10:34 PM | Updated as of 02/01/2011 10:35 PM
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday that it has directed the Philippine embassy in Cairo to make immediate arrangements for the repatriation of Filipinos who wish to come home from Egypt in the light of protest actions there.
DFA spokesman Atty. Eduardo Malaya said they are ready to move if a voluntary evacuation is requested by an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) on either relocation to safer grounds within Egypt or repatriation back to the Philippines.
"Wala po kaming naririnig na request sa mga Pilipino sa Egypt na sila ay maipa-repatriate, ngunit kung ‘yon ang kagustuhan ng ilan, ‘yong voluntary repetriation, may arrangement na tayong na-identify diyan," said Malaya.
The evacuation plan, according to Malaya, includes moving the OFWs by land from Cairo, Egypt to international airports in Tel Aviv, Israel or Amman, Jordan, where they will take a flight back to Manila. The DFA has made arrangements with other countries to allow the transit of Filipinos through their borders.
In Manila, DFA officials met with the ambassadors of countries near Egypt to request the assistance of their governments to allow the safe passage of Filipinos. The DFA also directed the Philippine embassies in these countries to make the same request with their host governments.
Malaya said they cannot enforce a mandatory evacuation for all 6,500 Filipinos working in Egypt since violent protests were limited only to certain areas of Egypt's major cities such as Cairo and Alexandria.
Malaya likened the situation to that of the 1986 EDSA People Power revolution, wherein the concentration of threats was limited to some parts of EDSA.
“Ang security situation ng mga Pilipino doon ay hindi nagbabago, ang mga protesters naman po ay hindi tinatarget ang mga Pilipino o mga foreigner," said the DFA spokesman.
Nevertheless, he said the DFA reiterated its advise to the Filipino community to stay indoors, stay clear of public places such as sites of mass protests, and avoid involvement in political actions.
The DFA has received 55 calls at its hotline number at the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) from Filipinos who have relatives in Egypt.
All the Filipinos in Egypt that the DFA has contacted are all safe.
They also said that there is no need to repatriate them back to the Philippines as of yet, but are ready to be moved to a safe area in Egypt if needed.
The embassy was also able to reach members of the Filipino community. Most of them said that they are also safe and did not express any need to be repatriated out of Egypt.
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) public information director Nicon Fameronag admitted they were not surprised to know that the DFA has not received any request for either relocation or repatriation from thousands of OFWs in Egypt.
Fameronag cited the economic benefits a Filipino gets while working in Egypt, which is being gripped by massive protests against the government.
He said each professional and skilled Filipino worker earns approximately $750 to $1,200 a month, something that Fameronag believe is not easy to leave behind.
Nonetheless, he said they are ready to support and help each OFW who will be repatriated in terms of livelihood, additional trainings, and even employment in another country.
DOLE, meanwhile, issued today a travel advisory to all OFWs who are about to travel for work in Egypt to defer their departure.
Fameronag said it would be wise to wait and observe the situation in Egypt before making any plans of leaving for the country.
"Ipagpaliban na muna, hintayin na ma-clear up ang situation, mag normalize muna," said Fameronag.
The DFA has set up a 24-hour hotline number, 834-4580, for relatives of Filipinos in Egypt who want to inquire about their relatives.