OFWs still training co-workers in Libya

By Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 06 2014 02:57 AM | Updated as of Aug 06 2014 10:57 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Hundreds of Filipino workers in Libya won't come home yet because they want to train their Libyan colleagues working in critical industries.

Susan Ople, Blas Ople Center head, said Libya relies on the skills and experience of Filipinos, especially those employed in power plants.

Libyans have asked these Filipinos to stay because they cannot run the power plants by themselves, she added.

She was informed that the Filipinos are training Libyan co-workers to ensure that the power plants will continue to function even without them, she added.

Ople said Filipino nurses employed at Tripoli Medical Center also told her that the management requested them to stay on to help the remaining doctors.

“The hospital gave out relief goods to the Filipino nurses who are still awaiting the release of last month’s salary,” she said.

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said would be best for Filipinos to heed the government’s call for mandatory repatriation and evacuation.

Filipinos are just putting themselves more at risk if they continue to make excuses amid gunfire and dying people, he added.

The government will continue to prioritize the welfare of Filipinos in Libya as their lives are at risk, Coloma said.

Ople said Filipinos are appealing to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide financial assistance for returning workers from Libya.

“Most OFWs would be leaving Libya without money to bring home to their families,” she said. “The financial assistance from OWWA will help their families upon their return while they look for other jobs.”

Ople said the center has also been receiving queries about the ship that would bring Filipino workers home from Libya.

Many OFWs are unsure on how best to get to the Philippine embassy, she added.

The Ople Center urged the Philippine embassy to give clearer instructions on what to do, where to stay and how to travel to safer destinations.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said only a fraction of the 13,000 Filipinos have expressed a desire to leave Libya because they are afraid of losing their jobs.

Only 1,700 Filipinos signed up to be repatriated from the Libyan cities of Benghazi and Misarata, as well as the capital Tripoli, after the government called for mandatory evacuation, he added.

Del Rosario said the government has chartered a ship to transport the Filipinos this week from Libya to Malta, where flights will be arranged to take them home.

About 160 Filipinos have escaped by land to Tunisia, including 50 workers who were briefly stranded when the border crossing was shut Friday night, he added.

Del Rosario said he was not sure if they could get 50 percent of the Filipinos to come home.

“They’re so scared, but their concerns are their jobs,” he said.

President Aquino sent Del Rosario to Tunisia with orders to make sure “no one gets left behind.”

Gov’t criticized

The government was criticized yesterday for the alleged slow- paced repatriation of Filipinos from Libya.

Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairman, said they have been receiving numerous calls for help from Filipinos trapped in that war-torn country.

“Their lives are in danger, especially now that the Egypt and Tunisia terminals are closed,” he said.

Martinez said some Filipinos are risking travel in dangerous streets to get to terminals and out of Libya.

“There is not a minute to spare, the government should immediately facilitate the evacuation of our Filipinos there,” he said.

Martinez said other governments have evacuated their citizens, but that the Philippine government’s repatriation programs appears to be unsuccessful.

“There is no active intervention on the part of the Philippine government to locate, secure and ensure the safe passage of Filipinos from conflict areas to the Philippine embassy,” he said.

Martinez said the government cannot simply lament that Filipinos are not heeding the mandatory call for repatriation.

“There remains no clear blueprint from the government on how the mandatory repatriation is supposed to take place,” he said. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Aurea Calica