MANILA – Four Filipino employees of the Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp. in Algeria arrived in Manila on Wednesday, thankful for surviving the hostage crisis last week that left 37 foreign nationals and 29 hostage-takers dead.
The arrival of the four men came three days after Filipino workers in Algeria started returning home for safety.
The foreign affairs department said the four workers "were not taken hostage and were thus unharmed."
Six Filipino workers were confirmed to have died in the hostage crisis that was carried out by Islamic militants at a gas facility in In Amenas starting Jan. 16. Their remains have yet to be flown back to the Philippines.
Another four Filipino nationals have yet to be accounted for.
Crisostomo Carabio, one of the four who arrived Wednesday, told Kyodo News he was "lucky by a few seconds" that he did not leave his office, otherwise, he would have fallen into the hands of the perpetrators.
"They (the hostage-takers) kept on pounding on our office, forcing us to go out. But we hid well and there was no noise, so that was our savior," Carabio said.
He said that he remained hidden for three days, without drinking or eating anything.
"It was very difficult," he recounted.
His suffering ended when "one evening, we were taken by the military because the military knew there were expats in our office."
But, apparently referring to the widely criticized Algerian government response to the crisis that lingered for four days and left many casualties, Carabio lamented, "the military there has really committed a few lapses."
Nevertheless, Carabio expressed willingness to return to Algeria for his job once there is clearance from authorities.
A Japanese employee of JGC's Philippine affiliate office said more Filipino employees of the firm are expected to be repatriated in the coming days.
"With the situation there, of course, they have to come home," the employee, who declined to give his name, said.
The foreign affairs department said that at the time of the hostage crisis, more than 1,780 Filipinos were working in Algeria, mostly in the gas fields.