PH embassy in Lebanon to repatriate OFWs who wish to fly home amid US-Iran tensions

Rhyse Furio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2020 08:46 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon – The Philippine Embassy in Lebanon is offering to fly home Filipino workers who may be affected by tensions between the United States and Iran. 

Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Bernadette Catalla said that while tensions between the two countries is not a threat, Filipinos still worry about its economic implications.

Due to the economic slowdown that began in October 2019, companies have gone out of business, including sushi restaurants where many Filipinos work. Consequently, Filipinos have lost their jobs or have had their salaries cut. 

“Limitado ang puwedeng i-withdraw. ‘Pag ang employer ay wala nang masyadong access sa kanilang dollar accounts, hindi po masusuwelduhan 'yung ating mga kababayan ng dolyar. Ang kailangan naman ng ating mga kababayan para magpadala ng pera sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay sa Pilipinas ay through the remittance centers, dolyar po,” said Catalla.

(There’s a limit to (bank) withdrawals. If the employers do not have much access to their dollar accounts, they will not be able to pay Filipino workers with dollars. Filipinos need dollars to send to their loved ones back home through remittance centers.)

The Lebanese lira has also devalued considerably against the US dollar.

“To think na 'yung salary mo is $500, bumaba siya naging $400 na lang,” said Marilou Tungcul, a household service worker.

(To think that your salary is $500, it has gone down to $400.)
The embassy in Beirut has sent an advisory to Filipinos about the voluntary mass repatriation. 

Almost 1,600 Filipinos have registered for repatriation since the embassy opened its doors full time in December.

To speed up repatriation, Lebanese authorities have formed a team that would process exit clearance of those endorsed by the embassy for repatriation. 

Priority will be given to senior citizens, those who are ill, persons with disabilities (PWD), pregnant women, those with small children, and those with valid work or residence permits, as long as they have their employers' permission to leave Lebanon. 

The embassy will continue to receive applications for repatriation until February 15.