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DFA Assures Contingency Plans for Overseas Filipino Workers Amid Middle East Security Concerns

DFA Assures Contingency Plans for Overseas Filipino Workers editorial

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the face of potential emergencies and crisis situations arising from the volatile security landscape in the Middle East. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega provided this assurance during a hearing held by the House of Representatives Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, where the country’s crisis plan for OFWs was discussed in light of escalating tensions in the region.

De Vega, in his statement, expressed a high level of confidence in the preparedness of the country, rating it at 9 out of 10. He emphasized that the government has continuously honed its response mechanisms based on extensive experience in managing similar crises in the past. Each Philippine embassy in the region, he stated, has devised its own contingency plan to deal with potential emergencies.

“Our embassies all have contingency plans in place,” De Vega affirmed.

Assistant Secretary Robert Ferrer of the DFA emphasized the need to keep the specifics of these contingency plans confidential for security reasons. He explained that divulging such details could jeopardize critical information, including escape routes, contact points, airport routes, and sea routes for the safe evacuation of Filipinos, as such information falling into the wrong hands could pose risks to their safety.

Ferrer further stated that these contingency plans are developed in coordination with the host governments, ensuring cooperation and collaboration in times of crisis. The DFA is actively engaged in coordinating with other government agencies through the One-Country Team Approach (OCTA). This approach ensures that the implementation of Philippine foreign policy abroad is well-coordinated, coherent, and compliant with the laws of the host government.

“All plans, suggestions, and contingency measures are led by the ambassador on the ground or the consul general, and all coordination takes placethrough them,” Ferrer explained.

He also urged lawmakers to allocate sufficient funds for the Assistance to Nationals fund and legal assistance funds, emphasizing that future crises are always a possibility and adequate provisions must be made to address them.

The hearing, chaired by Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron Salo, aimed to ensure that the government’s contingency plans are robust and responsive to potential crises that OFWs in the Middle East may face.

“I feel relieved and assured that our agencies, primarily tasked with ensuring the safety of our kababayans, have affirmed that a contingency plan is in place in the event of war in the Middle East. Furthermore, this plan is shared with and supported by all other agencies, is consistent with the pertinent laws of the host states, and is properly communicated with our Filipino communities,” said Salo, expressing his satisfaction with the outcome of the hearing.

Salo emphasized the importance of a united front and a whole-of-government approach in safeguarding the well-being of OFWs, particularly those in crisis areas. He highlighted the commitment of the government to prioritize the safety of Filipinos abroad and praised the collaboration among various agencies and the effective communication with Filipino communities.

Secretary Hans Cacdac, officer in charge of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), along with representatives from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), assured swift assistance to OFWs, particularly those in need of repatriation.

As a precautionary measure, the Philippine government has maintained alert level 2 for Israel following Iran’s recent missile attack, which was claimed as retaliation for the bombing of its embassy in Syria. The DFA has strongly advised Filipinos to postpone non-essential travel to the country and urged those already in the region to stay vigilant and stay updated with security pronouncements from their host governments.

“To facilitate contingency planning, all Filipinos are also encouraged to coordinate with their overseas community leaders and our Philippine Embassies/Consulates,” the DFA stated, emphasizing the importance of proactive communication and coordination in times of uncertainty.

With the assurance of contingency plans, swift assistance, and a coordinated approach, the Philippine government seeks to prioritize the safety and well-being of its overseas Filipino workers amid the challenging security situation in the Middle East. (report by Isabel Almonte)