In a significant development, the Israeli government has extended a promising lifeline to Filipinos stranded in the war-torn Gaza Strip. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. announced on Friday, conveying Israel’s commitment to facilitate the safe passage of Filipinos through the Rafah Crossing into Egypt.
A Diplomatic Endeavor
President Marcos disclosed that the Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines, Ilan Fluss, successfully established communication with Israel’s Foreign Minister and the Philippine Ambassador, Junie Laylo. A series of meetings and diplomatic exchanges have paved the way for this encouraging development.
Laylo also met with the Israeli Foreign Minister, who unequivocally pledged to permit Filipinos to cross the Rafah Crossing, with assurances that this would happen as soon as Saturday.
Readiness for Repatriation
Speaking at a press briefing held in Malacañang during the announcement of the new agriculture secretary, President Marcos stated, “Nakahanda naman lahat ng ating mga bus. Nakahanda na ‘yung mga embassy natin sa Cairo na napunta… Nandoon lang sila. Matagal na silang nag-aantay doon sa tawiran, ‘yung Rafah crossing. And they are ready for when the time comes na tumawid na ang mga Pinoy dadalhin at pauuwiin.”
The Rafah Crossing Point, the sole gateway between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, holds significant importance, being recognized in the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty.
A Helping Hand to Fellow Southeast Asians
In addition to providing assistance to Filipinos, the Philippine government has extended its support to Thais, Vietnamese nationals, and others from Southeast Asian countries who find themselves stranded at the crossing, all eager to escape the turmoil in Gaza. President Marcos called on other ASEAN countries to collaborate, emphasizing the paramount need to ensure the safety of their nationals.
Marcos noted the significant Filipino presence in the area and expressed the hope that their repatriation efforts would lead the way for the safe return of many.
A Complex Situation
The situation becomes further complicated as Palestinian husbands of some Filipinos face restrictions from leaving Gaza. Many Filipinos agonize over the decision to leave their spouses and children in a conflict-affected region.
“Siyempre ayaw naman nilang iwanan ang asawa nila, ayaw nilang iwanan ‘yung kanilang anak. So, these are the problems that we are facing,”
President Marcos said, empathizing with their predicament.
The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Philippine embassy have jointly announced the repatriation of several batches of Filipinos from Israel. These efforts mark a step forward in bringing the stranded Filipinos back to the safety of their homeland.