By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA — The first batch of returning overseas Filipino workers from Baghdad, Iraq is scheduled to depart from Doha, Qatar Monday night, Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.
In a statement, Lorenzana said the group is scheduled to depart for Doha, Qatar Monday night (January 13) at 9 p.m. (Baghdad time). They will arrive in Doha at 12:30 a.m. on January 14.
However, this has yet to be finalized as all flights coming to Manila have been canceled because of the Taal volcano eruption over the weekend.
Lorenzana, the designated inter-agency repatriation committee chair for OFWs in the Middle East, said the group is scheduled to board a Qatar Airways flight to Manila.
Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who is in Doha, Qatar, is set to accompany the OFWs on their flight home once the flight is confirmed, Lorenzana added.
Meanwhile, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration administrator Hans Leo Cacdac is set to leave on Monday for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to personally attend to the welfare of OFWs in the Middle East and assist in the repatriation effort, Lorenzana said.
“The Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) of the DOLE and DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) have been advised of his impending arrival,” Lorenzana said.
The DND chief added that requests for repatriation from OFWs in Iraq, Libya, and other Middle East hotspots have been received by embassies and consulates and their exit clearances are now being processed.
He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines is ready to deploy personnel to assist in the repatriation efforts.
“Coordination by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., through our diplomatic missions with other countries that may provide landing/docking clearances, as well as access to refueling and replenishment facilities have been ongoing ever since the President gave his order to prepare for the repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East,” Lorenzana said.
The Philippine Navy’s Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessel/frigate and a Tarlac-class landing dock have been designated for the repatriation mission.
The Philippine Air Force has two C-130s and one C-295 transport aircraft that are ready to pick up returning OFWs. (PNA)