MANILA, Philippines – A total of 258 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Syria arrived in Manila early Thursday morning via Lebanon.
The repatriates arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 4:25 a.m. on board a flight chartered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The OFWs expressed mixed emotions upon their arrival at the airport. Some were happy to be back and be reunited with their families while others were worried of what the future holds for them now.
“Mahirap eh, matagal na rin akong hindi nakauwi dito. Hindi ko pa alam kung paano ang buhay buhay,” said “Nena”, one of the repatriates.
Nena arrived in Manila together with her two children. According to her, Syria has been home to her and her family for 20 years now.
“Lahat nawala sa amin, gamit lahat-lahat. Lalo na kaming mag-asawa, nawalaan kami ng trabaho,” she said.
Nena said she would rather stay in the Philippines than risk their lives in Syria.
Norbayna Kasma, on the other hand, couldn't hide her excitement at finally returning home.
“Masaya ako dahil dito na ako sa Pilipinas. Makikita ko na yung family ko. Hindi na ako babalik kahit kailan. Dito na lang ako magtratrabaho sa Philippines dahil maganda dito,” said Kasma.
Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz directed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to brief the repatriates on the government’s Reintegration Program for OFWs, specifically the DOLE’s “Balik-Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay” and the Livelihood Assistance Program.
Baldoz said that bonafide OWWA members are eligible to avail the P10,000 relief assistance extended to OFWs from Syria to cushion the impact of their displacement form their jobs overseas. Report from Bettina Magsaysay, ABS-CBN News