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Pinoy Abroad

Heed calls for repatriation, DFA urges 4,000 Pinoys in Syria

December 29, 2011 2:50pm

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday urged anew some 4,000 Filipinos remaining in Syria to “heed government’s call for mandatory repatriation.”
 
DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario expressed concern over the safety of 4,557 Filipinos who are still in the country amid reports of escalating violence there.
 
"We are appealing to our kababayans in Syria to remove themselves out of harm's way while there is still time by getting themselves repatriated back to the Philippines," Del Rosario in a news release.
 
His call stemmed from the Philippine Embassy in Damascus' report that the capital remains on high alert following back-to-back car bombings there last week.
 
On December 22, the DFA raised the crisis alert level in Syria to “4”, noting the “escalating violence” there. 
 
The alert level entails mandatory repatriation of Filipino workers there, which the DFA said will be at the Philippine government's expense.
 
Career diplomat heading to Syria
 
Del Rosario also disclosed that he has ordered Assistant Secretary Olivia Palala of the DFA Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination to assume her post as Charge d’ Affaires in Damascus.
 
He said Palala—who had previously served at the Consulates General in Manado and Agana—will be leaving for Syria to oversee the Philippine Embassy’s efforts in convincing the registered Filipinos there to agree to be repatriated.
 
He added that the DFA has asked several groups, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Filipino community leaders, to assist them in informing Filipinos about the repatriation order.
 
The Philippines has repatriated 434 Filipinos since the start of the political crisis in Syria last March.
 
Of these, 349 were repatriated after the Philippine government called for their voluntary repatriation in August.
 
‘Libreng Tawag’
 
Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has announced earlier this week that families of Filipinos in Syria may avail of their “Operation Syria Libreng Tawag.”
 
In a news release on Monday, the agency said it was “ready to accommodate families of OFWs in Syria to call them at any time of the day.”
 
“Communication lines between the workers in Syria and their families here will help locate the whereabouts of the OFWs,” OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon said.
 
To avail of “Operation Syria Libreng Tawag,” relatives of Filipino workers in Syria may visit the OWWA Main Office at F.B. Harrison corner 7th Street in Pasay City.
 
They may also inquire by calling OWWA at the following numbers:
24/7 Operation center at 833-OWWA (833-6992) or 551-1560,
Main office at (632) 8917601-24, and
Text OWWA at (63) 917-898-6992.
 
They may also send their concerns via e-mail at Opcenter7@owwa.gov.ph orOwwa_opcenter@yahoo.com
- with Rose-An Jessica Dioquino, VVP, GMA News