MANILA — Senator Sonny Angara on Wednesday assured Filipinos in Libya who will consider returning to the Philippines that the government is ready to take care of their needs, as provided in the range of benefits under a law strengthening the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Angara said Filipino workers in Libya should also heed the call of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to have themselves repatriated amid the escalating military tensions near the capital.
“We are appealing to all our kababayan in Libya to remove themselves out of harm’s way by getting themselves repatriated to the Philippines,” he said.
“Huwag sanang mag-alinlangan ang ating kababayang OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) dahil may mga programa ang gobyerno para sa kanila. Ang benepisyong ito ay nanggaling mismo sa kanilang bulsa kaya marapat lamang na sila ay makinabang dito, lalo na sa panahong kailangan nila ng tulong (Our OFWs should not be worried because there are existing government services for them. These benefits came right from their pockets so it is only right for them to enjoy these, especially in dire times),” Angara said.
Under Republic Act 1081, OWWA is mandated to provide benefits and services to its members, which include gender-responsive integration program, repatriation assistance, loan and credit assistance, on-site worker assistance, death and disability benefits, health care benefits, education and skills training, social services, and family welfare assistance.
“We have to give back to our OFWs, whose remittances have kept the Philippine economy afloat for many years,” he said.
Angara noted that the Senate allocated an additional PHP100 million for the emergency repatriation program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) under the 2019 national budget.
Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay urged government agencies to activate emergency hotlines where families of OFWs can call and be updated of the safety status of their relatives in Libya.
Binay suggested creating an inter-agency team composed of the DFA, OWWA, and DOLE so that relatives in the Philippines can be apprised of the situation and the repatriation plans of the government.
“Sa ganitong sitwasyon, napakalaking bagay ang komunikasyon para makontak ang ating mga kababayan sa Libya, at para na rin sa peace of mind ng kanilang mga pamilya na hindi alam kung ano ang kalagayan nila doon (In this situation, it would be a big help to open up communication lines for Filipinos deployed in Libya, and bring peace of mind to their families who don’t know about their status there),” she said.
Binay said the DFA can set up an online info-center that will consolidate all Libya-related information and have it regularly updated.
She also said recruitment agencies can be tapped to help put up hotlines and social media channels for easier and faster communication.
The DFA has elevated the crisis alert level in Tripoli from 2 to 3 or voluntary repatriation phase on Monday following tensions in the Libyan capital since last week.
“I have raised the alert level in Libya to 3 but only for Tripoli and adjacent districts plus a 100-km. radius,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced in his official Twitter account.
Alert level 3 or the voluntary repatriation phase means that those currently in the Philippines or are about to travel back to Manila would not be allowed to return to the Libyan capital until after the situation normalizes. (PNA)