DFA declares Alert Level 4 for South Lebanon; other areas still at Level 3

22 July 2006—Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban B. Conejos Jr. announced this morning that the Crisis Management Committee has raised to Alert Level 4 only in Southern Lebanon the status of the contingency plan in that country.

Undersecretary Conejos added that the rest of Lebanon remains at Alert level 3.

The Undersecretary stressed that the monitoring by the Philippine Embassy in Beirut of an impending ground offensive by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in Southern Lebanon prompted the raising of Alert Level 4 in that part of the country.

“I have issued instructions at 7:00 this morning manila time to the Philippine Embassy in Beirut to raise Alert level 4 in Southern Beirut and undertake the immediate evacuation of Filipinos in that area for relocation to the Embassy or the Our Lady of Miraculous Medal church, Sassine,” Usec. Conejos said.

Records of the Department and the Embassy show that there are about 2,000 Filipinos in Southern Lebanon particularly in Sidon. Usec. Conejos said that Ambassador Cimatu, head of the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Team is now organizing the evacuation of the Filipinos from Southern Lebanon to the Embassy and the relocation site. The Undersecretary added that the Embassy is now preparing the repatriation to the Philippines of the next batch of OFWs.

Earlier the Embassy informed the Department that the IDF started to warn the residents of Southern Lebanon to immediately flee the area as it prepares for a likely ground offensive.

In the meantime, Usec. Conejos said that officers and staff of the Embassy in Beirut have been augmented by a number of personnel from the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia to assist in the implementation of Oplan-Sagip OFW in Lebanon.

Other updates: Philippine Ambassador to Israel Tony Modena said Hezbollah missiles reach only a few towns in northern Israel. He also said that Israeli households usually comply with the strict security instructions and measures of their government which include clearly designated bunkers and bomb shelters. Most households in Israel also have built-in protective areas like basements complete with food and medical supplies.OWWA Administrator Marianito Roque, on the other hand, said he has assigned veteran OWWA officers to help in the evacuation efforts in south Lebanon. His agency is also preparing specific reintegration activities for those returning from Lebanon. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sonny Conejos is 24-hours on the job, coordinating all movements and serving as a bridge of the department to other agencies involved in all these operations, notably the Office of the President and the Department of Labor and Employment. Let’s hope and pray for our workers’ safety in south Lebanon and northern Israel.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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