263 OFWs to fly out of Syria

By Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bueau

Posted at Sep 10 2012 06:48 PM | Updated as of Sep 11 2012 02:48 AM

KUWAIT CITY - Some 263 OFWs are set to fly out of Damascus at 2pm (8pm Manila time) today on board a chartered flight by the International Organization Migration. The group was supposed to leave on Sunday afternoon but the flight had to be rescheduled to Monday after the plane had some technical problems.

According to Philippine Rapid Response Team Head Ambassador Ricardo Endaya, the 263 OFWs will be arriving on Tuesday in Manila at around 5:30 am. On the other hand, 17 will fly via commercial flight on Emirates Airlines today while 20 will be flying out on Tuesday. DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis will also leave Damascus this afternoon while the Philippine Rapid Response Team led by Endaya will stay behind in Syria to help in the continuous repatriation of OFWs caught in the conflict.

With the mass repatriation of OFWs today, the number of wards at the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) in Damascus will be down to 18. However, Endaya told the Middle East Bureau that the number is expected to go up again due to the escalating hostilities in the country.

The mass repatriation of the OFWs was a result of the meeting of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario with Syrian Foreign Affairs Ministers Walid Al-Muallem in Damascus last week. The Syrian government agreed to waive the exit visas of over 250 OFWs, who are currently staying at a halfway house.

Over 2,000 OFWs have been repatriated since the government's mandatory repatriation has been implemented in December last year.

The Philippine Rapid Response Team urges Filipinos who are still in Syria to go to the embassy now for their safety and for their immediate repatriation to the Philippines.