MANILA, Philippines –The Department of Affairs (DFA) is sending a group to Libya to fetch thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) still stranded there after the United States and its allies launched a "limited military action" against the violence-wracked country.
During a meeting in Bahrain Saturday night to assess the situation in Libya, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario appointed Undersecretary Ricardo Endaya to spearhead the efforts to rescue some 1,700 OFWs still trapped there.
From Bahrain, Endaya’s group will proceed to Cairo, Egypt around 3 p.m. (Manila time) Sunday and then to Benghazi, Libya. The DFA is calling on all Filipinos to gather at the Philippine community school there.
Those stranded, most of whom are medical workers from Tobruk, Derna and Al Bayda, initially refused to evacuate after their employers promised to increase their salary pay and other benefits. Others were also worried they would not be able to find jobs if they returned home.
The DFA said they have since changed their minds after the United Nations imposed the no-fly zone in Libya.
Meanwhile, DFA spokesman Ed Malaya said the Philippines “abides by the decision of the UN Security Council in imposing a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace.”
“This UN action is a humanitarian measure which is meant to safeguard the civilian population in contested areas of the said country,” Malaya said in a text message to abs-cbnNEWS.com.
“Recent developments will not likely adversely affect Filipinos as the bulk of our nationals have already exited Libya through the coordinated efforts of the DFA and DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment),” he added.
Ambassador Alejandrino Vicente and the embassy staff will remain in Tripoli to take care of the country’s interests and ensure the safety of the Filipinos who chose not to go home, according to Malaya.
Malaya said some Filipino nurses have chosen to stay put in order to administer to the needs of the sick and wounded.
“The safest places for them are the hospitals were they work. Hospitals are considered as protected areas under international humanitarian law,” he said. -With a report from ANC