DFA: Arrangements being made for Filipinos who wish to be repatriated from Egypt

THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday that it has directed the Philippine Embassy in Cairo to make immediate arrangements for the repatriation of Filipinos who wish to come home from Egypt in the light of protest actions there.

It is also closely monitoring the situation, especially with the planned protest march scheduled today in Cairo. It reiterated its advise to the Filipino community to stay indoors, steer clear of public places-especially sites of mass protest-and avoid involvement in political actions.

The DFA has received 55 calls at its hotline number at the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) from Filipinos who have relatives in Egypt to check on their situation.

When the DFA-OUMWA called the Egypt-based Filipino, they said that they are safe.  They also said that there is no need to repatriate them back to the Philippines as of yet, but are ready to be moved to a safe area in Egypt if needed.

The Embassy was also able to reach members of the Filipino community, who mostly said that  they are likewise safe and did not express any need to be repatriated out of Egypt.

Nonetheless, the DFA-OUMWA and the Embassy informed the Egypt-based Filipinos of the hotline numbers of the Embassy which they could call should they feel that they are at risk and needed to be moved out.

They are also reminded to stay indoors, steer clear of areas of mass protest and avoid involvement in political actions.

Embassy records revealed that there are 6,569 Filipinos in Egypt, concentrated in Cairo and Alexandria.  The Filipinos are located far from Tahrir Square, where the protest actions are concentrated.

Meanwhile, the DFA also said that it has made arrangements with third countries to allow the transit of Filipinos through their borders.

In Manila, DFA officials met with the ambassadors of countries near Egypt to request the assistance of their governments to allow the safe passage of Filipinos from there. The DFA has also directed the Philippine Embassies in these countries to make the same request to their host governments.

According to the Embassy, there has been no reports of attacks involving foreigners.  In particular, there is no imminent danger to the lives of Filipinos there.

It has also beefed up the 20-strong Embassy personnel. Consul General Ezzedin Tago, an Arabic-speaking career foreign service officer of Filipino and Egyptian lineage has arrived in Cairo from his current station in Riyadh.

Special Assistant Rico Fos of the DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) is enroute to Egypt to aid the Embassy in the implementation of contingency measures it has put in place for the Filipino community. Special Envoy Roy Cimatu will also proceed to Egypt after the conclusion of his mission in another country in the region.

The Embassy has conducted a phone brigade, calling Filipino community members to check on their condition and to know their whereabouts.  The Embassy hotline was also distributed to them.

At a press conference held Monday, the DFA affirmed the availability of P25 million as standby emergency funds for the Egypt crisis. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) representatives at the meeting also committed their agencies to set aside additional emergency standby funds.

As provided under Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act (as amended by RA 10022), there is a P100-million emergency repatriation fund administered by OWWA, which can be used for the crisis.

Earlier, the Philippine Government called on all parties in Egypt to maintain calm and exercise restraint.  It has likewise expressed the hope that the level of violence will not escalate, and for an early resolution of this crisis.

In line with the instructions of President Benigno S. Aquino III for the DFA, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and other concerned agencies to closely monitor the ongoing crisis in Egypt and to ensure the safety of Filipino community members, an inter-agency Crisis Management Committee meeting was convened Sunday afternoon at the DFA.

The DFA issued a travel advisory to Egypt which urges Filipinos who have plans to proceed to Egypt to defer non-essential and non-urgent travels, notably for tourism purposes, until the security situation has stabilized.

At the same time, the DFA has mobilized its offices in Manila and is closely monitoring developments with other government agencies.

The DFA has set up a 24-hour hotline number at the DFA-OUMWA for relatives of Filipinos in Egypt who would like to inquire about their relatives.  The DFA-OUMWA hotline number is 834-4580.

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