MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is on his way to Tunisia to personally head the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers from strife-torn Libya.
Assistant Secretary Ed Malaya, spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), announced over radio dzMM that Del Rosario and Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. left Manila past midnight on board an Emirates airline flight and were expected to arrive in Tunisia around 4:05 p.m. (Manila time).
"Ang pakay niya ay gusto niyang makita ng personal kung ano talaga ang kalagayan ng ating mga kababayan at pamunuan mismo ang ating repatriation efforts," Malaya announced.
The DFA spokesman added that teams from Philippine embassies in Riyadh, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and more people from the department's main office in Manila will also travel to Libya's nearby territories to augment teams already in place for the full OFW repatriation.
Malaya added that the DFA has also requested the Department of National Defense and the Philippine Air Force to dispatch C-130 planes for shuttle flight services for the evacuating Filipinos.
He said that the C-130 planes are needed to take repatriated Filipinos to Tunisia and Cairo, where the OFWs will take commercial flights to Manila.
He said that the DFA has already arranged the C-130 planes' overflight clearances through their counterparts in countries surrounding Libya.
First batch arrives
In a separate radio dzMM interview, Administrator Carmelita Dimzon of the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration (OWWA) announced that OFWs evacuated from Libya will arrive in Manila in several flights.
Twenty OFWs already arrived on board Gulf Air flight 154 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 at 10:25 a.m. on Saturday.
A radio dzMM report said the Filipinos are workers of French firm Vinci Construction Grand Projects, which was building a new airport in Tripoli.
The report said 77 more construction workers will arrive at the NAIA in at least 5 batches on Saturday.
Dimzon said that the families of the OFWs have been notified of their arrival and officials from the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment will welcome the returning Filipinos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
She said the Filipinos and their families can stay temporarily at the OWWA Halfway Home in Pasay City.
Malaya said that aside from the Filipinos arriving Saturday, there are 12 more OFWs who have fled Libya and were on board a British naval ship bound for the southern European country of Malta. Seventy more OFWs have been evacuated to Maris, Turkey.
The DFA, meanwhile, announced that it has made available a 24-hour free call service for families of OFWs in Libya.
The DFA said that the phone boots were opened 9 a.m. Saturday and it will be open to OFWs relatives 24 hours.
It also announced that a crisis management center has also been set-up at the main office. Relatives who want to ask for information about OFWs in Libya can call number 834-4580, 834-3245, 834-3240 and 834-4646.