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MISSION SUDAN

April 26, 2023 Camille P. Balagtas 180 views

SEVEN buses carrying around 300 Filipinos are streaming out of Sudan for Egypt just as fighting punctures a 72-hour cease-fire between warring Sudanese forces.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said a total of 80 Filipinos have already left the North African state, which includes the first batch of 50 evacuees.

“As of Wednesday morning Sudan time, at least seven more buses are leaving for Egypt with 300 repatriates minimum,” DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said.

Giving assurance to Filipinos already at the border, the official said the Philippine Embassy in Egypt is doing its best to help them cross through.

The Philippine Embassy in Egypt has also made representations with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the temporary entry into Egypt of Filipino nationals.

“The problem is the long processing at Egyptian border, taking over a day. Our Embassy is sending teams to try to fix it, including for those three,” De Vega said.

The embassy is eyeing the deployment of assistance-to-nationals teams in two locations in Wadi Halfa and Port Sudan to provide further consular assistance to evacuating Filipinos.

Efforts are also continuous to secure more buses for evacuation.

“The Embassy continues to monitor developments in Sudan; continues to coordinate the evacuation and repatriation of Filipinos and is in communication with Filipinos to ensure their safety and well-being,” DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said in a separate statement.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople Ople said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. directed them to quickly bring all affected Filipinos in Sudan to safety.

“The President’s directive were number one, to get all of them to safety as quickly as possible, number two, it shouldn’t matter whatever papers they have or if they don’t have any papers at all,” Ople said.

“To quote the President, kung marunong mag Tagalog, marunong mag-bisaya, marunong mag-ilokano marunong ng ibat-ibang dialect sa atin, Pinoy yan so we will help (if they know how to speak in Tagalog, Visayan, Ilocano or any other dialect in the country, they are Filipinos so we will help),” she added.

Ople assured that those who are not in possession of any passport or identity card will still be given assistance and that their documents will be taken care of when they reach the border, with the DFA taking the lead.

She added that Marcos also instructed them to work with international partners such as the United Nations and the International Office of Migration (IOM) to be able to bring all the affected Filipinos to safety.

Ople said the DMW will have various teams composed of people who are experts in repatriation efforts and in responding to similar emergency crises to better assist the OFWs.

In partnership with the DFA and Philippine Ambassador to Egypt Ezzedin Tago, Ople said they would pinpoint the exact location where the cross-border assistance will be extended by the DMW teams.

Upon reaching the border, each OFW will immediately receive $200 financial assistance.

She said they will discuss with them other assistance that they would need from the Philippine government, especially if they would decide to go back to the country.

Meanwhile, DMW is now in communication with the Ministry of Human Resource and Social Development (MHRSD) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for employment possibilities for those who would decide not to go home.

The DMW Welfare Assistance Team was composed of Ople, Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac, Overseas Workers Welfare Administrator Arnell Ignacio and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Labor Attache Roel Martin.

ALTERNATIVE LIVELIHOOD FOR DISPLACED SUDAN OFWS URGED

Meanwhile, Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada yesterday asked the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to ensure the provision of livelihood assistance to OFWs in Sudan who have been displaced by the recent infighting in the mixed African-Arab country.

Estrada, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment, urged the DOLE and other concerned agencies to prepare alternative sources of livelihood for the OFWs who will be repatriated, including undocumented workers.

“Asahan na natin na karamihan sa mga OFWs na napilitang umuwi ng wala sa oras dahil sa tumitinding kaguluhan sa Sudan ay walang ipon.

Baka matagalan pa bago sila makapag-relocate para makipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa. For the meantime, makabubuti siguro na mabahagan sila ng tulong ng gobyerno. May nakalaan tayong pondo para sa mga katulad nilang distressed or displaced OFWs,” the senator said.

Estrada noted that P431 million had been allocated under OWWA’s Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay Program (BPBH) in this year’s national budget.

BPBH, a package of livelihood support and assistance, covers returning OWWA member-OFWs who were displaced or distressed from their jobs. A maximum of P20,000 is given to covered active and non-active OWWA members as startups or additional capital for the expansion of their already existing business.

At least 325 out of the estimated 700 OFWs in Sudan have requested the government for repatriation from the war-torn country.

“May programa ang gobyerno na makakatulong sa mga kagaya nila na nawalan ng trabaho sa ibang bansa at mainam na mabigyan sila ng ng ganitong klase ng ayuda ng sa gayon ay patuloy nilang matustusan ang gastusin ng kanilang pamilya. Sa ganitong paraan, hindi sila daragdag sa bilang ng mga unemployed nating mga kababayan,” Estrada said. Camille P. Balagtas, Philippine News Agency