DFA raises Alert level 4 in Libya; some Filipinos refuse to go home

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 01 2019 10:49 AM | Updated as of May 01 2019 04:33 PM

Members of Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, get ready before heading out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya. Reuters file photo

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has raised the alert level to 4 in Tripoli and nearby areas following intensive fighting around the capital.

On Twitter, DFA Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. said he briefed President Rodrigo Duterte about raising the alert level in Tripoli on Tuesday.

"More mortar fire, more Filipino hurt," he tweeted. However, no other details were given about the injured Filipinos.

Locsin said Alert Level 4 calls for a mandatory evacuation of Filipinos there.

"But we cannot compel--and rightly so. What is mandatory is that DFA stays in Tripoli until last OFW goes--& then it stays," he said.

Charg√© d’Affaires Elmer Cato told DZMM on Wednesday that they are having a hard time convincing OFWs to evacuate or take the repatriation offer since the conflict began on April 4.

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

"Out of the 1,000 na nandito sa Tripoli, 40 pa lamang ang nagpatulong magpauwi sa Pilipinas para makatakas sa kaguluhang nangyayari dito," Cato said.

(Out of the 1,000 Filipinos here in Tripoli, only 40 have asked to be repatriated to the Philippines to escape the clashes here.)

Cato said they are exerting more efforts to assist Filipinos in distress.

Last Monday, some 13 OFWs were trapped inside a building in the Salahuddin district after a firefight erupted when one of the groups advanced to the area, he said.

On Tuesday, a group of about 30 nurses requested for assistance because they could not leave due to the firefight. However, Cato said they changed their minds at the last minute.

"The threat is very real. When we raised level 4, yung sinasabi namin dyan hindi na natin ma-guarantee safety and security ng ating mga kababayan," he said.

(When we raised level 4, what we're trying to say here is that we cannot guarantee the safety and security of out compatriots.)

Most of the OFWs in Libya work in the medical field. Others are working as factory workers, household service workers, and in the oil sector.

He said many Filipino nurses are already in their senior years, who spent more than half of their lives in Libya. They worry about their future if they decide to return to the Philippines.

"May attachment na sila. Many of them feel obligated to stay kasi pag umalis sila magko-collapse ang hospital (because if they leave, the hospital will collapse) because they occupy very senior positions," he said.

Cato has been giving regular updates on the situation in Tripoli on social media. 

He tweeted on Tuesday that the ability of the Philippine Embassy to assist Filipinos in distress "becomes more difficult or even impossible to carry out" as fighting gets closer.

"That's why this early we ask our kababayans to let us help lead them out of harm's way," he said.

The embassy has evacuated 6 more Filipinos from Tripoli on Tuesday and are on their way to Tunis where they will board their flight for Manila.

He also reported that two Filipinos have been injured in separate indiscriminate shelling incidents.

Cato said for those who are still undecided whether to go home, they could stay at the embassy if the situation in their area becomes dangerous.

"If you want to go home just tell us habang bukas pa yung border at mailalabas namin kayo gagawin namin (while the border is still open and we could bring you out we will do so)," he said.

While Cato feels that the embassy won't be a target, he said they are careful as there is still no certainty. He said there are criminal elements, even ISIS, who may want to take advantage of the situation.

"We will remain open. We will not leave," he said.