MANILA - After Alert Level 3 was raised in Libya last week, 51 Filipinos have already signed up for voluntary repatriation with the Philippine embassy, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official said on Tuesday.
In an interview with ANC, Foreign Affairs spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said the embassy is trying to get more Filipinos to avail of voluntary repatriation.
He said that the repatriation expenses, including the flight, shall be shouldered by the Philippine government.
"We are still trying to get more people to register for voluntary repatriation and once we've firmed up the plan, we'll work on their flight going back to the Philippines... The Philippine government shall be shouldering the cost of repatriation."
Jose said information on how to reach the Philippine embassy in Libya have been disseminated.
"We've given them advisory, the address of the embassy, as well as the hotline number and email address...Our embassy right now is conducting an information dissemination to inform all our OFWs in Libya on how to go about registering for the voluntary repatriation," he said.
The DFA official advises Filipinos living in Libya to apply for voluntary repatriation, due to the situation in the country at the moment.
"We're hoping that more of our OFWs in Libya would avail of themselves this opportunity to leave Libya voluntarily as soon as possible," he said.
As of Monday, Jose said violence and bombings continue to take place in Libya.
"As of yesterday, there were violence taking place, bombings done by the different militias so the situation is very volatile and we're very much concerned with the deteriorating security situation in Libya," he said.
When asked if a higher alert level will be called by the DFA, Jose said that they will raise if the situation has reached that stage.
"Our team there is assessing the situation, closely monitoring the developments there and if it warrants, we have to raise the alert level, but right now we are not at that stage," he said.
At least 20 killed in clashes in Libya
On Monday, at least 20 people were killed and almost 70 wounded when the Libyan army and forces of a renegade general fought Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi, medical sources said.
Combat helicopters belonging to forces loyal to former army general Khalifa Haftar - who wants to purge the North African state of Islamist militants he says a weak government has failed to control - supported the army in the worst fighting in months.
At least 20 people were killed and 67 wounded in Benghazi alone, hospital doctors said. Some 18 wounded were reported in al-Marj, a town east of Benghazi, where fighting also broke out, medical sources said.
Libya is in protracted turmoil three years after the NATO-backed war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with Islamist, anti-Islamist, regional and political factions locked in conflict.
The Ansar al-Sharia militant group attacked a camp on Monday belonging to army special forces, residents there said. Haftar's forces joined the battle taking place in residential areas with frightened families staying indoors. Schools and universities were closed.
Special army troops were also seen moving reinforcements to the area of fighting in the west of Libya's second-largest city.
Haftar started a campaign to battle Islamists two weeks ago. Since then, public life has come almost to a standstill in the city, home to several oil companies. Its airport is closed.
On Sunday, a warplane belonging to Haftar bombed a university faculty while trying to attack a nearby Islamist camp. Two people were wounded.
The government, rival militia brigades and political factions rejected Haftar's offensive against militants as an attempted coup after his forces also stormed parliament a week ago.
Ansar al-Sharia, listed as a terrorist group by Washington, warned the United States last week against interfering in Libya's crisis and accused Washington of backing Haftar.
Gaddafi's one-man rule, followed by three years of unrest, have left Libya with few functioning institutions and no real national army to impose authority on the competing militias and brigades of former rebels who have become power-brokers. - With Reuters