By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA— Twenty-six distressed Filipinos arrived in Manila from Lebanon on Wednesday, Christmas Day, as their host country continues to face financial woes.
The 26 Filipinos, including a three-year-old child, are the second batch since the first 30 Filipinos from Lebanon were sent home on December 22.
While some of the repatriates were victims of abuse, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said a majority of them requested repatriation due to salary issues caused by Lebanon’s economic crisis, particularly shortage of dollars.
“Lebanon is not in a state of civil war, it’s just that they ran out of dollars so they cannot pay Filipino workers in dollars,” he said. “That’s the reason they are leaving because they cannot be paid.”
The batch that arrived on Wednesday has connecting flights to Cagayan Valley, Davao, Roxas City, General Santos City, and Pagadian.
For Gemma Degala, a household service worker in Lebanon, her flight home to Manila can already be considered a gift, given all the difficulties she experienced working and sustaining herself in the state.
“Wala nang dollars, wala na ring gamot, walang trabaho. Ang trabaho ko three times a week nalang kaya mahirap na talaga (They are running out of dollars, even medicine and jobs. My work there has been cut to thrice a week so it has become really difficult),” she said in an interview.
Genevieve, who refused to disclose her full name, echoed similar sentiments with Gemma although she noted abuse and maltreatment in her work abroad.
“Ako naman ‘di ko na kaya kasi natutulog po ako umaga na, tapos gigising agad tapos maraming gagawin tapos sisigaw-sigawan pa (I wasn’t able to sleep well and after, I’d still get nagging from my employer),” she said. “Magulo na po doon, may mga nagsusunog na sa gitna ng kalsada tapos wala na raw pong dollar doon (It’s chaotic there, some set up fire in the middle of the streets and I heard there were no money already).”
Upon their arrival, Locsin gifted the Filipino repatriates with cash assistance to help them tide over as they return home with almost nothing.
Together with Locsin in welcoming the group was Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar who vowed to assist some of the repatriates in filing cases against their illegal recruiters.
The DFA had earlier sent a Rapid Response Team to assist the Philippine Embassy in Beirut to manage the repatriation amidst the deepening financial difficulties in the state.
Of the total 32,000 Filipinos residing in the state, Locsin said the agency targets to repatriate a total of 1,500. (PNA)