MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday supported the decision of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to temporarily suspend the departure of Filipino workers to Israel amid the worst fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in years.
“Suportado po ng Malacañang ang naging desisyon ni Secretary Bello na panandaliang itigil muna ang pagpapadala ng mga OFWs sa lugar ng Israel sa Gitang Silangan dahil nga po sa tumitinding labanan doon (Malacañang supports Secretary Bello’s decision to temporarily stop sending OFWs to the Israel in the Middle East due to the intensifying conflict there),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
Bello on Thursday clarified that there is no deployment ban, saying “the processing of those who already qualified continues.”
He, however, said the departure of Filipino workers who are bound to Israel is suspended while the tension and violence are still high.
Since the Philippines is already facilitating the emergency repatriation of Filipinos from Israel, Roque said it only made sense to allow temporarily halt the departure of workers.
“Ito naman po ay para mapangalagaan nga ang kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan. Siyempre, habang naghahanda tayo na i-evacuate at i-repatriate ang ating mga kababayan doon, e bakit tayo magpapadala ng mga bagong OFWs doon din (This is to protect the safety of our countrymen. Of course, as we prepare to evacuate and repatriate our citizens there, why should we send new OFWs there as well)?” he added.
Last week, Roque said the Philippine Embassy in Israel and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are “experts” in ensuring the safety of Filipinos amid the latest escalation of violence in Gaza and Jerusalem.
“So hinahanda na po ‘yung posibleng repatriation at binibigyan na po sila ng warning na kung pupuwede po ay mag-ingat dahil dito sa mga pag-iinit ng mga pangyayari diyan sa Israel at sa occupied territory (So we are preparing for Filipinos’ possible repatriation and they are given a warning to stay safe because of the escalating tensions in Israel and its occupied territory),” Roque said.
There are currently around 30,000 Filipinos working and residing in Israel.
No Filipino casualties have been reported amid the escalating exchange of airstrikes and rocket fires between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Reports showed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intensified after Palestinians faced off nightly with Israeli police in East Jerusalem, who put up barriers to stop evening gatherings at the walled Old City’s Damascus Gate.
On Thursday, Israel and Gaza militants pursued their cross-border attacks into its 11th day with Israeli warplanes carrying out new airstrikes and Palestinians firing more rockets. (PNA)