Sunday, January 30, 2011

Officials mapping out evacuation routes for Pinoys in Egypt

As tension continued to mount in Egypt, Philippine authorities there have mapped out at least two land-based evacuation routes for some 6,500 Filipinos there.

In a radio interview on Monday, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya said they are also mapping out at least one sea-based evacuation route if the need arises.

"Meron tayong na-map out na route na pwede by land transportation papuntang Tripoli sa Libya. Puwede rin land transportation to Amman, Jordan, at pinagaaralan din natin through sea transportation from the Port of Alexandria," Malaya told radio dzBB. 

(We have mapped out land routes to Tripoli in Libya and Amman in Jordan. We are now studying a route via sea transport from the Port of Alexandria.)

He said the Philippines has also mapped out contingency plans along with transportation and other logistical arrangements.

Malaya pointed out the DFA has set up a P25-million standby emergency fund in case the need for evacuation and repatriation should arise.

The Philippine Embassy in Cairo has also set up a 24-hour hotline to accommodate calls from Filipinos there.

"Pwede tumawag anytime, ang instruction ng Pangulong Benigno S. Aquino III, talagang alagaan ang seguridad ng ating kababayan doon (Filipinos can call the hotline at any time. The instruction of President Benigno Aquino III is to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Egypt)," he said.

Travel advisory

On Sunday, the Philippine government issued a travel advisory on Egypt, urging Filipinos to avoid going to the foreign country due to continuing violent political protests there.

An Associated Press report said the official death toll from the crisis stood at 97, with thousands injured. Reports from witnesses across the country, however, indicated that the actual toll was far higher. 

But Malaya said that as of Monday morning, there was still no need to evacuate Filipinos, although Filipinos who want to go home can contact the embassy in Cairo.

"Ang nililikas sa kasalukuyan karamihan turista at businessmen di tulad ng kababayan nating may trabaho at bahay doon (So far, most of those being evacuated are tourists and businessmen, unlike our fellow Filipinos there who already have stable jobs and homes there)," he said.

Citing updates from Philippine charge d’affaires in Egypt Eduardo Pablo Maglaya, Malaya said Filipinos remain safe amid heightened tension in Egypt.

He said that of the 6,569 Filipinos in Egypt, 3,083 are household workers while the others are scholars and skilled workers or executives.

"Sinabi ng embahada [na] ang ating mga community members ay ligtas naman, they are not in harm’s way, at wala namang nasugatan o nasaktan sa kanila sa kilos protesta (Our embassy reports the Filipino community there is safe. They are not in harm’s way and are not among the casualties so far)," he said.

But he reiterated the Filipinos in Egypt had been reminded to stay in their homes and to refrain from taking part in protests.

Delayed flights

Malaya also cited reports indicating delays are to be expected in flights to and from Egypt. However, he said there has so far been no ban on flights to and from Egypt.

“Nakakapasok pa. May delays that can be expected pero nakakapasok pa (Planes can still get to Egypt. There are delays to be expected but planes can still get in)," he said.

He also downplayed concerns that the situation in Egypt will affect the deployment of Filipino workers there.

"Minimal ang deployment of Filipino labor sa Egypt, so di masyadong malaking concern itong tinatawag na may kontrata at dapat paalis papunta doon (The deployment of Filipino labor to Egypt is minimal so it is not that big a concern)," he said. — RSJ, GMANews.TV

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