(UPDATE) THE Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has imposed a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to conflict-hit areas in Israel, citing dangers from the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict that erupted on Saturday with the surprise attack by the Palestinian Islamist group on civilians in southern Israel.
“No deployment as of now,” Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Officer in Charge Leo Hans Cacdac said on Tuesday, adding that the focus for now is on the security of Filipinos in Israel, particularly in the Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv.
Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Officer in Charge Leo Hans Cacdac. Photo from PCO
Cacdac said the government is ready to implement a mandatory evacuation and repatriation of Filipinos in Israel who want to go home if the need arises.
“We are just waiting for the advisory of the government of Israel. We need to balance the situation based on the advisory because if we talk of mass repatriation, we have to factor in the safety and security concerns,” Cacdac said in Filipino.
“At the right time, in coordination with Israeli authorities, we will evacuate and repatriate those who want to go home,” he said.
Cacdac said the majority of Filipinos in the Gaza Strip were not overseas workers but were wives of Palestinians, adding that they too, including their families, wanted to be repatriated if necessary.
He also assured families of Filipinos in conflict-hit areas that they were safe and being taken care of by the Philippine Embassy in undisclosed, secured shelter areas.
“Those who were rescued by the Philippine Embassy are being taken care of by welfare officers and labor attache. They are in undisclosed rescue areas and being provided with needed assistance,” Cacdac said.
As to the case of the seven missing Filipino workers, the official said that their families have already been informed about the situation in Israel.
All seven missing OFWs have been identified, including the one who was reportedly taken hostage by Hamas militants.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday said that the number of Filipinos in Gaza who wanted to be repatriated rose from 25 to 38 as Israeli forces vowed to decimate the Hamas militant group.
There are 137 Filipinos in Gaza, the Philippine Embassy in Amman, Jordan, said.
DFA spokesman Ma. Teresita Daza said that as of October 9 the Philippine Embassy in Amman received repatriation requests from nine families consisting of 38 Filipino nationals and 11 Palestinian spouses.
“Among the 38 Filipino nationals are 17 minors whose ages range from 2 to 15 years old,” Daza said in a text message.