Gaza, West Bank OFWs should be repatriated now, govt told

On November 3, Friday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr announced that Israel promised to allow Filipinos to leave Gaza on either November 3 or 4. Philippine Ambassador to Egypt Ezzedin Tago, however, said that no Filipinos were included in the list of 600 foreigners who were allowed to cross the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt on November 3.

The Marcos government should stop being comforted by Israel’s empty promises. It should also stop relaying these promises to the public. Instead, it should work harder to ensure that our kababayans in Gaza and the West Bank are repatriated immediately.

We are saddened by the statement made by Ambassador Wilfredo Santos, Philippine envoy to Jordan that “We can only hope and pray that our Filipino nationals in Gaza City who want to be repatriated can reach the border crossing area once the notice is given.”

The Philippine government can do more than hope and pray for Filipinos in Gaza and the West Bank. If Israel really considers the Philippines “a friend,” as DFA undersecretary for migrant workers’ affairs Eduardo De Vega said, and values our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), then it should ensure the safety and immediate repatriation of Filipinos in its territory.

If only for the Filipinos in Gaza and Israel whose lives are in danger, the Philippine government should have voted in favor of the United Nations resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Filipinos are now suffering from the government’s pro-US abstain vote, as well as Israel’s brutal stance against Palestinians.

According to the government, there are nine (9) Filipinos in Gaza city, eight (8) of whom want to return to the Philippines. There are meanwhile 134 Filipinos in the Gaza strip, 115 of whom want to be repatriated. Out of the 123 Filipinos in the West Bank, four (4) have requested for repatriation while two (2) have crossed to Jordan to be repatriated.

Migrante-International expresses our deepest condolences to the family and friends of OFW Angelyn Aguirre who died because she heroically refused to leave her 70-year old ward and whose body arrived in the country on November 3.

Angelyn is a reminder that many Filipinos are still facing danger, even death, in Gaza because of the indiscriminate, large-scale and non-stop bombings of Israel. We also question the narrative that Angelyn and others died because of the Hamas attacks, as the circumstances of their deaths are still unclear even according to the media. What we know for certain is that Israel has been using a disproportionate amount of force against the Palestinian people.

Angelyn is yet another testimony to how the government’s labor export program and refusal to create decent jobs in the Philippines result in Filipinos finding themselves in the middle of all sorts of violent conflicts. The death of Angelyn and so many others must not go to waste and should be a reminder to the Philippine government of the need to stand on our own feet as a nation in creating jobs for our people.