On the 23rd of May, Migrante International issued a statement slamming the Duterte government for its failure to lay out contingency measures to assist OFWs in regions close to the Yemeni border. After the deadly missile strike in Abha on Wednesday, we are outraged that the Duterte administration remains stone-deaf in hearing our calls to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia as the Philippine government displays the same ineptitude it has shown during the previous outbreak of armed conflict in Libya, Iraq and Syria.
Instead of readying concrete contingency measures, the Department of Foreign Affairs only re-echoed almost the same consulate advisory issued by its office in Jeddah last month. Will the government wait once more for thousands of Filipinos to be caught up in the deadliest last minute before it even lifts a finger?
Now that airports and control towers are being targeted, it will no longer be safe for Filipinos to be airlifted to safety from these regions. According to the Consulate in Jeddah, in regions closest to the Yemeni border, about 15,000 Filipinos work in Jizan and 7,850 are in Najran. In the Asir region, there are 13,000 OFWs in the city of Khamis Mushayt alone. The city is close to the King Khalid Air Base which experienced a deluge of airstrikes a few days ago.
The Yemeni Forces vowed to launch more attacks in response to what it claims are “US-Saudi crimes of aggression” on the Yemeni people. What’s striking is that Saudi Arabia is increasingly becoming more incapable of intercepting drones and missiles launched from Yemen as airstrikes rapidly advance forward into its inland territory. This should already ring the loudest alarm into the deaf ears of the Duterte regime and his officials.
Signs of exacerbation have been staring at Duterte’s face in the last few months and yet embassy and consulate officials in Saudi wasted several weeks electioneering for Duterte’s anointed candidates in the recently-concluded midterm national elections. This vile apathy demonstrates how much weight the Duterte government places on its lust for power than looking after the welfare of imperiled OFWs.
Once again, Migrante International reiterates its call on the Duterte government to ensure that concrete actions are already in place to readily assist OFWs in need of immediate evacuation in all locations of Saudi Arabia within missile range. It should draw lessons from similar periods in the past when it only responded upon the moment when lives have already been lost.
As long as the Duterte regime stubbornly clings to its rotten labour export program, Filipinos abroad will remain under threat as collateral damage in countries jolted by armed conflict. OFWs and their families will not stop at nothing less than making the Duterte regime and his government officials accountable for their negligence.