Group urges DFA to reassess evacuation, repatriation plan in Syria

THERE could be no safer place in a country besieged of civil war where there are intense hostilities”, said today by a Filipino migrants rights group in the Middle East.

The group issued the statement in reaction to the remark by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that Filipinos were ‘relatively safe’ in Damascus, Syria’s capital.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez disclosed Friday in a public interview, citing a report from its Damascus-based Charge de Affaires Alfredo M. Borlonga, that Filipinos in the Philippine Embassy in Damascus were relatively safe. He, however, added that there were clashes and explosions 10kilometers away from where the PH embassy is located.

There are 160 OFWs now at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, while there are about 1,300 from all over Syria who have enlisted seeking assistance for evacuation and repatriation from the PH government, according to the DFA.

“It makes no sense in saying that OFWs in Damascus were ‘relatively safe’, in a place where rocket propel grenades and bullets are crisscrossing bearing an unwritten note ‘to whom it may concern’, which means everyone could be hit, unintentionally or being as a target,” said John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East.

Monterona added the ‘relatively safe’ remark by the DFA is misleading in its vain attempt to justify its own failure. “The evacuation and repatriation efforts of the PH government were in disarray especially in the earlier stage before the Syrian civil war broke out.”

“The DFA’s ‘relatively safe’ remark was a by-product of a ‘wait and see’ stance of the PH government, which is systemic in the entire PH bureaucracy. We may add the ‘11th hour’ rush mentality,” Monterona observed.

Monterona averred that these ‘relatively safe’ remark, ‘wait and see stance’, and the ‘11th hour rush’, also common negative attributes observed to ordinary Filipinos, must be eradicated in the Philippine bureaucracy in order to have an ‘efficient, effective, and even economical’ government.

Monterona noted that the imposition of mandatory evacuation was too late because of the failure of the PH officials in Damascus to immediately act, read and analyze the development of events in Syria leading to civil war.

“The PH govt. evacuation and repatriation program for OFWs in Syria was poorly planned just like during the Libya upheaval,” the OFW leader added.

Monterona suggested the PH government through the DFA must require its diplomatic posts abroad to reassess their evacuation and repatriation plan regularly as often as possible while keeping updated on the peace and order situation in the host country.

“The repatriation must continue not only during civil war or calamities as there are undocumented who have voluntarily applied for repatriation,” he said.

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