October 16, 2023
MANILA – The 131 Filipinos in Gaza City have left the war-torn area after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ordered their mandatory evacuation on Saturday night.
“The Philippine government has accounted for 131 of our nationals in Gaza [or Gaza Strip],” the DFA said in a statement on Sunday, adding that 78 of them are now staying near the Rafah border crossing close to Egypt.
The department declared Alert Level 4 at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday (Manila time), in accordance with its alert system for critical areas.
The agency has four alert levels — Alert Level 1 or the “precautionary phase,” Alert Level 2 or the “restriction phase,” Alert Level 3 or the voluntary repatriation phase, and Alert Level 4 for mandatory evacuation or repatriation.
The remaining 53 Filipinos have moved to the south of the Gaza Strip from Gaza City in the north, which is expected to be the main site for hostilities between Israeli forces and Hamas militants.
“Our 131 Pinoys in Gaza are now closer to Egypt’s border, away from Gaza City which is being hit. Gaza City is where the Hamas are mostly. The Filipinos have evacuated and moved to the south,” Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told the Inquirer.
The DFA assured the public that the government would continue working to repatriate the Filipinos and help them cross into Egypt.
De Vega, in an earlier television interview, said that raising the alert status to Level 4 was in preparation for the possible ground offensive of the Israel Defense Forces against Hamas militants in Gaza.
He added that there was“no way in or out” of Gaza, for now, but remained hopeful that Filipinos could leave the city through Egypt.
“We’re ready but no one can currently enter or leave Gaza,” De Vega said, pointing out that once the crossing near Egypt opens, government officials would bring the Filipinos to Cairo and then back to the Philippines.
According to him, the Department of Migrant Workers will repatriate eight Filipinos from Tel Aviv, some of whom lost their jobs due to the conflict. They are expected to arrive in Manila on Tuesday, Oct. 17.
30,000 Filipinos in Israel, Gaza
So far, three Filipinos have been reported killed by Hamas militants who attacked Israel on Oct. 7. They were identified as caregivers Loreta Alacre and Paul Vincent Castelvi, and nurse Angelyne Peralta Aguirre. Three others remain missing.
Aside from the 131 Filipinos in Gaza, there are around 30,000 others in Israel, the DFA earlier reported.
Bringing home the bodies of the three fatalities may take longer due to the conflict, according to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Administrator Arnell Ignacio.
“Under normal circumstances, repatriation would only take about a week. But now, because there is a war and the situation is extraordinary, it will probably take some time. That will take longer than one week,” Ignacio said in a radio interview on Sunday.
“But hopefully, because the situation is very volatile, the bodies may be given a chance to be flown right away. Flights are our consideration,” he said, adding that they were exploring all possibilities and channels to bring the bodies home as soon as possible.