MANILA - The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs said on Friday at least six Filipinos have already left Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said on a public briefing that the agency has so far accounted for 181 Filipinos in the country, with at least 37 heading to the eastern Ukrainian city of Lviv.
According to Arriola, airports across the country have already closed down, forcing Filipinos to travel by land.
"Kahapon po dapat apat yung aalis pero hindi po natuloy dahil nagsarado po lahat ng airports ng Ukraine. Ngayon po sa Kyiv, sa isa pong bus na rented ng ating embahada, papunta silang Lviv," Arriola said.
(Yesterday, four Filipinos were supposed to leave, but they were not able to because all the airports in Ukraine had closed down. Over in Kyiv, a bus rented by our embassy is heading toward Lviv.)
"The DFA is on top of the situation, and we are just waiting for our kababayans to tell us that they need repatriation and we will assist, and we will stay on the ground as long as it is necessary."
Arriola called on Filipinos in Ukraine to reach out to Manila's honorary consulate in Kyiv so they could be given assistance, amid reports of panic buying in the Ukrainian capital.
"Doon po sa ating mga kababayan sa Ukraine, kailangan po talaga makipag-ugnayan kayo sa aming embassy at sa aming honorary consulate para mabigyan po namin kayo ng tulong," she said. "Tulong po is with the repatriation or care packages or financial assistance during this time of need."
(To our countrymen in Ukraine, you need to contact our embassy and honorary consulate so we can help you. The help comes in the form of repatriation, or care packages, or financial assistance during this time of need.)
As for whether mandatory repatriations will be enacted, the undersecretary said the decision was up to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Earlier on Friday, Locsin said he was going to the Ukrainian border to personally oversee the safety of Filipinos.
According to Arriola, the secretary was heading to Poland, the only country that has so far agreed to take in Filipinos even if they did not have European Union visas.
As the conflict between Ukraine and Russia continues, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed on Friday to stay in Kyiv. That's despite Russian troops seizing the former Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant north of the city, as they advanced from Belarus.
"(The) enemy has marked me down as the number one target," Zelenskiy warned in a video message. "My family is the number two target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state."
- With a report from Reuters.