In a compelling call to action, senators demanded that government agencies prioritize the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) caught in the crossfire of the escalating conflict between Israel and the Hamas group. This urgent plea came after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the tragic loss of two Filipino lives among the six nationals reported missing.
Tragic Loss of Filipino Lives
One of the casualties was a 33-year-old Filipino worker from Pangasinan, newly married and with dreams yet to be fulfilled. The second victim, aged 42, hailed from Pampanga, leaving behind a grieving family and loved ones.
Senator Imee Marcos Highlights the Scale of the Crisis
Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has taken center stage in the national discourse. She underscored the gravity of the situation, urging the government to prioritize the safety of nearly 25,000 OFWs, along with Filipino tourists and pilgrims currently in Israel, and over 2 million Filipinos residing across the Middle East and North Africa.
Warning of Long-term Consequences
Marcos also sounded a cautionary note about the potential “long-term consequences” that might stem from the government’s approach to safeguarding its interests in the Middle East conflict. She pointed out that despite the Philippines’ geographical distance from the epicenter of conflict, it remains at risk of violence. Being a staunch ally of the United States, which has pledged military support to Israel, the nation faces the potential of retaliatory attacks from militant Hamas sympathizers should the war drag on.
As Senator Marcos emphasized,
“We import practically all of our oil supply from the Middle East. Despite the recent assurance of six OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) nations to support market stability, we remain vulnerable to the winds of geopolitics.”
Urgent Action Demanded by Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla underlined the urgency of the situation, emphasizing the need to utilize every available opportunity to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Israel. He stated,
“Kaya dapat siguruhin talaga na gagamitin natin ang lahat ng pagkakataon at oportunidad para madala natin sila sa mabuting kalagayan (That’s why we really need to make use of all the chances and opportunities to ensure their safety).”
Emergency Repatriation Fund: A Lifeline, Says Senator Jinggoy Estrada
In a separate statement, Senator Jinggoy Estrada shed light on a lifeline available to Filipinos affected by the conflict. He emphasized that the government could provide immediate assistance and support, tapping into an emergency repatriation fund amounting to PHP8.9 billion.
“May PHP8.9 bilyon na alokasyon sa Emergency Repatriation Fund na nasa pangangalaga ng DMW para sa kasalukuyang taon at nasa PHP693.5 milyon o 7 percent pa lamang ang nagagamit dito. Nasa kabuuang PHP9.1 bilyon ang nakaantabay na gastusin para tustusan ang agaran nilang pag-uwi (The Department of Migrant Workers has an allocation of PHP8.9 billion for its ERF this year, and they were able to use PHP639.5 million or 7 percent. There is still PHP9.1 billion remaining that could be spent for their immediate repatriation),” Estrada affirmed.
As the conflict in the Middle East intensifies, senators have united in their call for immediate and comprehensive action to protect the lives and well-being of Filipino nationals abroad.
The government faces a pivotal moment in ensuring the safety of OFWs, Filipino tourists, and residents affected by the crisis. The emergency repatriation fund, in Senator Estrada’s view, stands ready as a vital resource to aid those in need during these trying times.