‘Civil war risks better than joblessness in Philippines’

Published by rudy Date posted on May 29, 2011

ONLY 69 Filipinos in Yemen, out of at least 1,442 (those who are registered with the Philippine embassy), want to come home, despite the Department of Foreign Affairs’ having raised the crisis alert to level three in the tension-gripped country.

The 69 Filipinos will be repatriated under the Philippine government’s voluntary repatriation program that was activated because of the escalating violence in Yemen.

“[But] save for three, most of these Filipinos are overstayers and there are penalties that must be settled before the Yemeni Passports Authority would agree to issue them an exit visa,” Ezzedin Tago, charge d’affaires of the Philippine embassy in Riyadh, said in a statement.

The Philippine embassy in Riyadh has jurisdiction over the Philippine honorary consulate in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen.

Tago said the Philippine embassy team currently in Yemen already made representations to the Yemeni Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting for full waiver of the penalties of those who have overstayed their visas.

The embassy team would know today whether the exit visas where processed since Yemen is on holiday on Thursday and Friday.

Tago, together with the embassy team, was in Sanaa to implement the Philippine government’s contingency plan there.

A separate three-man team from the Philippine consulate general in Jeddah, on the other hand, was also stationed at the port city of Aden “for the same purpose.”

“Many expressed desire to remain as they are still gainfully employed and are safe in their places of work and residence. Their employers have also assured them that they have an evacuation plan should there be a need to move them out,” Tago said.

A seasoned observer of the Middle situation told The Times that Filipinos in the Middle East, not only in Yemen, don’t want to leave and would rather risk of getting hurt in the violence of pro-democracy protests because they realize they would only end up being jobless in the Philippines. Or they would be forced to accept lower-paying jobs.

Unfortunately, the crisis is driving Yemen close to economic collapse.

So, even if the Pinoys stay in Yemen they may eventually have to come home if the companies they work for close down.

Many of the Filipinos there are oil industry engineers and technicians, like the one who was kidnapped two years but was released after negotiations with the kidnappers.

Alert level raised to level 3

On Tuesday, the Foreign Affairs department raised alert level three in Yemen, adding that the Philippine government is ready to repatriate Filipinos at the government’s expense because of the “continuing political tension and escalating violence” in the capital city of Sanaa.

Alert crisis level three refers to the voluntary repatriation of Filipinos in tension-gripped countries.

Also, in coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment, a deployment ban is put in place effective immediately. All Filipinos were also advised to delay travel to Yemen.

“The embassy teams instructed the Filipino community in Yemen to actively monitor ongoing developments, keep their communication lines open with the Embassy teams in Sanaa and Aden and with their designated community coordinators,” the Foreign Affairs department said.

“They have been advised to keep an emergency bag ready with clothing, water, canned goods and medicine, for themselves and for their family members, and with important documents such as passports and money ready and at hand,” the department added.

Additional officers and staff from the embassy and the consulate general are on standby in case more personnel are needed to assist in the implementation of the contingency plan in Yemen.

The embassy teams in Sanaa have been closely monitoring development in the country. They also briefed members of the Filipino communities there on the embassy’s contingency plan.

About 1,422 Filipinos are registered in the Philippine embassy in Yemen but there must be many more overstaying or undocumented ones, like the 66 who have applied to the embassy for repatriation.

Tensions in Yemen started in March, following the clashes between government forces and protesters in neighboring countries such as Egypt, Libya and Bahrain.

Sec. del Rosario’s Yemen visits

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario has been to Yemen twice to assess developments in the country and to see how to help the Filipinos there.

He met with Yemeni Foreign Minister Dr. Abu Bakr Qirbi on April 30. Secretary del Rosario was assisted by Ambassador Tago during his visit.

During his visit, Sec, del Rosario swore into office Mohammad Al-Jamal as the first-ever Philippine Honorary Consul in Yemen to oversee and safeguard the interest of the Philippines there, under the supervision of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

Secretary del Rosario met the Yemeni Foreign Minister for the first time on March 20 at a working dinner in Sanaa, the capital. At the time the pro-democracy turmoil was still in its early stages. The Foreign Minister assured Secretary Del Rosario that the Yemeni government is committed to protect and ensure the safety of Filipinos in Yemen. -Bernice Camille V. Bauzon, Reporter, Manila Times

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