Press Release
December 23, 2011

Legarda Calls for Cooperation between Gov't and OFWs in Syria for Safe Repatriation and Swift Aid to Returning Filipinos

Senator Loren Legarda today called on the government to ensure the safe repatriation of all Filipinos in Syria as she asked Filipinos in that country to cooperate withofficials.

The Chair of theSenate Committee on Foreign Relations made the statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raised the crisis alert level in Syria to level 4.

"While the DFA and the Philippine Embassy in Damascus have already laid out their plans for there patriation and other necessary assistance to Filipinos in Syria, the bigger challenge rests on convincing our countrymen to take advantage of the government's offer to repatriate them," Legarda stressed. In issuing this appeal, Legarda recalled the earlier offers of repatriation issued by the Philippine government.

Since August of this year, the government has offered repatriation assistance to Filipinos in Syria but as of December 16, only 383 of the estimated 17,000 Filipinos have agreed to be repatriated.

"The decision by an overwhelming majority to risk their lives, not withstanding the clear and present danger to their safety stresses the need for government to create jobs in our country that can feed families and educate children," Legarda said.

"I also appeal to our fellow Filipinos in Syria to heed the government's call for mandatory repatriation" she added. In issuing this statement, she also called on the DFA to determine how government may effectively cover undocumented Filipinos under its crisis management and security arrangements.

"As early as August of this year, the DFA has offered voluntary repatriation. What happened between August and now needs tobe assessed to ensure that offers for repatriation translate to greater security and safety to our migrant Filipinos," Legarda added.

The Senator said that in times of crisis, open communication lines and cooperation between the people in the government are crucial.

"Apart from informing Filipinos in Syria of the repatriation plans and procedure, they must also be informed of the options they have in the country when they get back."

"In this light, I call on the Department of Labor and Employment to start the process of job matching, while the skills training programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) must also be fully utilized. Funds from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) must be used for these programs. The unified effort of concerned government agencies is most vital in this situation," Legarda concluded.

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