Senate ready to act on Duterte’s call for special session on possible repatriation of OFWs in Middle East
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate is prepared to act on the President’s request for Congress to convene in a special session regarding a possible evacuation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East.
“If ever the President will request for a special session for the need to pass a supplemental budget to help repatriate our Kababayans from the Middle East, we in the Senate are prepared to act on his request and can meet at any time in the interest of our OFWs,” Zubiri said in a statement on Tuesday.
In the meantime, Zubiri said the President could utilize the billions of pesos of contingency funds lodged under the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) available for repatriation immediately.
“Those funds are readily available for these emergencies. We support the President’s plan to set up a Crisis Committee in charge of the massive plan to bring back our OFWs in case war breaks out between Iran versus the US and its allies such as Saudi Arabia which hosts over a million Filipino workers,” Zubiri said.
“That is a gargantuan task that would need the support of all our government agencies to be able to bring home such a large number of people,” he added.
Senator Francis Tolentino, meanwhile, admitted that the possible repatriation of OFWs in the Middle East would be a “logistical nightmare.”
“Nandun ako kahapon, napakinggan ko yung talumpati niya…ang panawagan ng pangulo ay para magkaroon ng standby fund na gagamitin sa OFW na milyon ang bilang kung sakaling lumala ang sitwasyon sa Middle East,” the senator told reporters in an interview.
The President made the call after he signed the 2020 national budget but Tolentino noted that the recent escalation of tensions in the Middle East was not considered during budget deliberations.
“Hindi naman na-consider nung budget hearing yung nangyayari ngayon sa Middle East so although may standby funds, ang sinasabi ng Pangulo e dapat nandiyan yan, mas malaki, para napaghandaan na natin at hindi na kailangang gambalain ulit ang Kongreso para mailigtas naman at maisaalang-alang yung kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan na OFW,” he added.
Asked on how the fund would be allocated, Tolentino surmised that it would go to chartering planes for the repatriation.
“Siguro yung initially diyan yung gasolina ng pag-charter ng eroplano, pag-secure sa kanila (OFWs) kung magkaron ng isang malawakang gulo, halimbawa umabot sa Lebanon, umabot sa (United Arab Emirates), sa Bahrain, sa Qatar yung effects,” he said.
(Perhaps, initially, the fuel for the chartered plane would be provided, the OFWs would be secured in case violence erupts and there would be a spillover of the fighting into Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar.)
“So yung pag-secure muna, magkapondo yung mga embahada natin tapos yung pag-repatriate which is going to be a logistical nightmare so to speak,” he added.
(So the priority is securing the OFWs and providing funds for the embassy and the repatriation, which is going to be a logistical nightmare so to speak.)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.