By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA— Less than a week after General Khalifa Haftar ordered his troops for a final assault to capture Tripoli, the Philippine embassy in Libya on Tuesday urged all Filipinos near the clashes to relocate and remain vigilant.
“As you know, last Thursday, General Khalifa Haftar ordered his troops to launch a final offensive to capture Tripoli. As a result, we have again urged our kababayan (countrymen), particularly those in areas near the frontlines, to relocate to safer areas and for the others to take the necessary precautions,” Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elmer Cato said in a text message.
“We advise everyone to remain vigilant. We also appeal to (our) kababayan with minor dependents to have their children repatriated as soon as possible,” he added.
The embassy continues to monitor developments on the ground and remains in touch with members of the Filipino community from various areas in the capital to check on their situation.
On Tuesday, it repatriated nine Filipinos, including three minors by air. Another batch of repatriates is scheduled to exit Libya before Christmas but Cato said it would still depend on the situation on the ground.
The embassy has sent a total of 142 Filipinos home since the current conflict in Tripoli broke out in April.
Despite Haftar’s order and the threat for the final offensive, Cato noted that some places in the capital remain “abnormally normal”.
“We are a bit tense because members of the Filipino Community are reporting that they are hearing explosions from where they are in various parts of Tripoli. We can hear some too here at the embassy,” he said.
The embassy, on the other hand, is ready to receive Filipinos who have no place to go, but so far, it has yet to receive any request for shelter.
“It is business as usual in some places but tense in others. Several Filipinos staying in areas near the frontline have temporarily relocated to safer ground. They are mostly staying with friends or relatives,” Cato said.
The Philippines is one of the few countries with an active diplomatic presence in Tripoli. From Southeast Asia, the Philippine embassy is only one left in the capital.
The armed conflict in the country started in April 2019 when units loyal to the Libyan National Army advanced to capture the capital from forces aligned with the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord. (PNA)