2,300 Pinay nurses stay behind in Libyan hospitals amid attacks

Published by rudy Date posted on March 21, 2011

At least 2,300 Filipino nurses have refused to be evacuated even after the United Nations approved military strikes against Libya.

Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the nurses, 2,000 of whom are based in capital Tripoli and 383 in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, opted to stay following request from the Libyan government, which promised to increase their pay significantly if they remain.

“We have not received any request to come and provide transport so they can leave Tripoli,” Del Rosario said. “They feel safe being in a hospital and there’s nothing safer than being in a hospital.”

But if the situation worsens, he

said the government can arrange another ship to pick them up. The government has ended its evacuation in Libya and has moved to safety some 13,000 Filipinos.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya said the Filipino nurses chose to stay “in order to fulfill their professional obligation and attend to the needs of the sick and wounded.”

“The safest places for them are the hospitals were they work. Hospitals are considered protected areas under international humanitarian law,” he added.

Multinational military forces comprised of the United States, France and Britain launched air strikes on Saturday, convinced that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi reneged on his pledge of ceasefire mandated by the UN.

But a defiant Gadhafi said he will fight back against undeserved “naked aggression.”

Reports said a number of people, including women and children, were killed by Gadhafi’s troops in retaliatory attacks against civilians.

Manila has expressed support to the UN resolution in Libya.

Malaya said the Philippines “abides by the decision of the UN security council in imposing a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace as a member of the UN and a signatory of the UN charter.

“This UN action is a humanitarian measure which is meant to safeguard the civilian population in Benghazi and other contested areas of said country,” he said.

Recent developments, he added, “will not likely adversely affect Filipinos, as the bulk of our nationals already exited Libya.”

The Philippine Embassy in Tripoli will remain open to serve the needs and oversee the safety of the remaining Filipinos there, he said.

“Ambassador Alejandrino Vicente and the embassy staff in Tripoli will remain to take care of the country’s interests and ensure the safety of Filipinos who chose to remain for personal reasons,” Malaya said.

In Syria, Philippine officials there are ready to activate the country’s contingency measures once the political strife worsens. A stock estimate from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas showed 19,423 Filipino workers in Syria.

Syrians also took the same path as their neighbors by staging similar loud protests against their authoritarian government, hoping it would result in having their political freedom restored.

“The Philippine Embassy in Syria is closely monitoring developments in certain parts of the country,” Malaya said, adding that the 1,050-strong Filipino peacekeepers stationed in Golan Heights who were deployed to the country as part of a UN peacekeeping contingent can be mobilized to evacuate the thousands of Filipinos if needed.

Meanwhile, Bahrain Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa has assured the Philippine government that all Filipinos will be provided protection amid the growing unrest in the Middle East state.

Khalifa on Saturday personally relayed this message to Del Rosario, who is currently on five-day Middle East swing to check on the condition of Filipino workers trapped in the spreading conflict across the region. –Michaela P. del Callar, Daily Tribune

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