DFA chief flies to Syria tonight to help in OFW repatriation

January 1, 2012 2:50 am 

MANILA, Dec. 31 — Upon the instruction of President Benigno S. Aquino III for the full implementation of crisis alert level 4 (mandatory repatriation) in Syria, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is set to leave for Damascus Saturday night to ensure that the conditions of Filipinos affected by the increasing tensions there can be made as secure as possible.

He will take the lead in the Philippine government's efforts to bring them out of harm's way from the said country.

"During this visit to Syria, we will seek the cooperation and assistance of Syrian officials in ensuring the safety of our people there, as well as to seek their assistance for the successful implementation of our repatriation program. Furthermore, we will ensure that all systems are in place in the Embassy to implement crisis alert level 4; we will also meet with Filipino community leaders to effect the widest dissemination of the mandatory repatriation, visit exit points and assess the security situation and contingency plans," Del Rosario said.

The DFA chief, who will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr., will leave on board a Qatar Airways flight bound for Damascus.

"We are fully committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our beloved Filipinos in Syria. Therefore, it is our objective to undertake the repatriation of our kababayans there as quickly as possible," Del Rosario added.

This is the second visit of Del Rosario to Syria. The secretary was in Syria in April 2011 to assess the political situation and to ascertain the conditions of Filipinos there.

Earlier, Del Rosario personally issued the appeal for Filipinos to have themselves repatriated to Manila at government's expense as he expressed concern over their safety in the wake of the reported escalating violence in Syria.

The Philippine embassy in Damascus reported that the capital remains on high alert and violence continues.

The DFA raised the crisis alert level in Syria from alert level 3 to alert level 4 last December 22. Under crisis alert level 4, mandatory repatriation at Philippine government's expense will be implemented.

Fifty-six Filipinos were repatriated early Saturday by the embassy and will arrive in Manila in two batches later in the afternoon via Etihad Airways and via Qatar Airways. This brings the total number of Filipinos repatriated from Syria to 490 since the start of the political crisis there in March.

The embassy's hotline number is 00-963-116-132626. Families may also e-mail their requests and concerns through the embassy's e-mail address pe.damascus@gmail.com .

In Manila, the DFA also activated hotline numbers for families of Filipinos based in Syria, at 834-3245 and 834-3240. (PNA) scs/FPV

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