MANILA — Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Libya, as well as the augmentation teams to be deployed by the administration, may get trapped inside Tripoli if civil unrest there suddenly escalates, a policy think-tank warned Thursday.
Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center & Training Institute said it is important that the government put in place an established contingency plan and coordinate with Libyan employers for a smooth repatriation of OFWs.
"Ang dapat paghandaan ay logistics ng repatriation. Kung umabot ang giyera sa Tripoli, may posibilidad na mahirapan sila makaalis, pati ang augmentation teams," Ople said.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday ordered a total deployment ban of OFWs bound for Libya upon the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) amid the escalating violence in the oil-rich country.
The ban, which covers areas within a 100-kilometer radius of the city, takes effect immediately and affects workers returning to Tripoli, Bello added.
At least 47 people have been killed and 181 wounded in recent days as eastern Libyan National Army (LNA) forces seek to take Tripoli from an internationally recognized government, the World Health Organization said.
The DFA has raised Alert Level 3, considered a "voluntary repatriation" phase, to ensure the safety and security of all Filipinos in Libya.
Ople said the government must fund the Philippine embassy in Libya as "early as possible" to beef up their "logistical resources" to prepare for the "worst-case scenario."
"Kailangan meron na silang medical supplies, tubig, gasolina para tatakbo ang mga sasakyan, 'yung logistics ng repatriation ang mahalagang mapag-usapan ngayon,” Ople said.
She also said doctors and social workers must be part of the rescue team that the labor department will deploy to Libya.
Ople likewise appealed to OFWs currently in Libya to avail of the repatriation offered by the government.
"Sana maisip din nila ang kaligtasan nila, 'yung peace of mind ng pamilya nila at nung mga kawani ng gobyerno na andun ngayon para tulungan silang makalikas,” Ople said.
Records from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) show that there are around 2,600 documented OFWs in Libya, mostly professionals in the medical field and skilled workers in oil and gas facilities. —Reports by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News