DFA Update on ships to Lebanon, other offers to help
DFA Press Release, August 7 — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo said that Task Force Lebanon is studying the proposals of the Philippine Coast Guard, the shipping sector and foreign governments and international organizations to assist the Governmentâ€™s efforts in evacuating Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from Lebanon.
Secretary Romulo met at the DFA Vice Admiral Arthur N. Gosingan, Commandant, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), on the proposal to send to Lebanon two PCG rescue ships the BRP Pampanga (SAR-003) and BRP Batangas (SAR-004).
The Secretary also met Mr. Sabin Aboitiz, President, Aboitiz One, on the offer of Cebu Pacific Airlines to fly its new plane from Germany to Damascus to pick up OFWs and bring them home.
At a news briefing, Secretary Romulo said the proposals were referred to Vice President Noli de Castro who is chairman of Task Force Lebanon. The Secretary also said that Task Force Lebanon is also considering other options or offers for assistance such as:
– the assistance by the Government of Bahrain to ferry over one thousand OFWs from Damascus to Bahrain, from where the Philippines will arrange for the onward flights to Manila;
– the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to repatriate another batch of OFWs from Beirut to Damascus, Syria by buses and by charter flight from Damascus to Manila;
– the offer of Ms. Doris Magsaysay Ho of Magsaysay Lines to assist in the chartering of passenger ships and of Greek shipping magnate Antoniou Antonious to ferry OFWs from Beirut to various transit points such as Cyprus, Mersin in Turkey, Rhodes Island in Greece and Tartus in Syria; and
– offers from the Organization of Islamic Conference, the European Union and the United States.
As Task Force Lebanon considers these offers, Secretary Romulo stressed, â€œWe want all Filipinos evacuated from Lebanon, and the President has reiterated that no cost will be spared in bringing them out of harmâ€™s way. In line with this directive, we are looking at expeditious transportation to safe and secure places for our workers, and then bring them from there back home to the Philippines.â€
At the same time, Secretary Romulo said he received the report of Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael E. Seguis, who heads Team Syria, on the discussions with the Syrian Government to open the sea routes to Syria as Task Force Lebanon considers all land, sea and air options for the safe and orderly repatriation of Filipinos.
The Secretary added that the Philippines is following closely the discussions in the United Nations (UN) in New York especially the draft resolution on the Lebanon crisis being considered by the UN Security Council. In the light of the UN debate on this issue, Secretary Romulo reiterated his appeal â€œfor an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilitiesâ€ in Lebanon.