Israel OFWs say: Pinoy bayanihan alive, PH govt slow to respond

Press Statement
17 October 2023

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Israel have shared their plight with Migrante-International. They tell us two things: Pinoy bayanihan is alive, but the Philippine government is slow to respond. We call on the Philippine government: act now to protect our kababayans in Israel!

Good news: Pinoy bayanihan is alive: 

  • Amidst the military fighting in Israel, OFWs are reaching out to fellow OFWs in need. Some are giving food and clothes to those who need these, spending money from their own pockets. 
  • A volunteer group was formed to support students whose contracts have expired and needed food.
  • Filipino community partner with local agencies and supportive individuals to provide psychosocial counseling to those in need 
  • Because there are no centralized bomb shelters, OFWs have created lists of their own apartments or homes that have bomb shelters, circulating these lists for those in need. 

Bad news: the Philippine government is slow to respond:

  • Some OFWs feel abandoned by the Philippine Embassy. They provide information to the Philippine Embassy, but it does not act on the information.
  • OFWs cannot feel any government resources being spent to help Filipinos.
  • The supposed hotline number given by the government is not accessible 24/7. OFWs requesting for assistance or repatriation communicate with Filipino community leaders just to reach the government officials
  • The Embassy has not provided information about evacuation or contingency plans: no information about vehicles on standby or rescue areas.
  • The Embassy has admitted that it cannot provide psychosocial counselling to distressed OFWs. It says that this service can only be given once OFWs are already back in the Philippines.
  • Only 300 OFWs supposedly answered the Google Survey circulated by the Philippine Embassy. These OFWs supposedly claimed that they are safe. This number is a far cry from the more than 30,000 OFWs in the country, and doing a survey through Google Form is not the best way to reach out to OFWs in Israel.
  • OFWs have for a long time called on the Philippine Embassy and government to create its own temporary shelters in Israel as the country is a site of many conflicts and wars. This call, however, remains unheeded to this day.  The PH government only relies on churches and community leaders for temporary shelter instead of mobilizing resources for safe shelters.

In contrast, embassies of other migrant-sending countries like India and Nepal have announced a list of their missing nationals within 24 hours after Hamas attacked on October 7. They were also quick to raise alert levels. On both actions, the Philippines is a laggard.

A few days after the first attack, the Philippine Embassy was more concerned about its image, warning OFWs who share information or cry for help on social media.

It has been more than a week since Hamas launched the attack that reignited the fighting between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinians. We condemn the Philippine government for its very delayed response to the needs of our OFWs. This is nothing less than criminal negligence of OFWs in Israel.

This is another reason why proposals to increase top government officials’ confidential funds is unacceptable to us migrant Filipinos. This is another reason why the creation of Philippine National Police foreign attaches in some countries is also revolting for us. 

No less than the United Nations claims that the world is at present witness to the most number of conflicts since World War II. The Philippines is one of the world’s top labor exporters, and the Philippines has what has been called a labor brokerage state. Many OFWs and Filipino migrants cannot at present access government services, and more OFWs will need such services in the future. 

The Philippine government must act now to increase and improve these services for OFWs and migrant Filipinos. It must, more importantly, create decent jobs in the Philippines by developing agriculture and industries and stop its labor export program. ###