SENATOR Jinggoy Estrada called on the government to immediately come up with a plan to provide “alternative livelihood” to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been displaced with the recent violence in Sudan, a country in northeastern Africa bordering with Egypt, Chad, and Libya.
About 700 OFWs among the thousands of other foreign nati onals were trapped after fighting erupted between two factions of the Sudanese military last April 15, 2023. Of the number nearly half, or 325 OFWs have asked the government for them to be repatriated back to the Philippines, according to Secretary Susan Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers.
Two Philippine officials, Philippine Ambassador to Egypt Ezzedin Tago and Vice Consul Bojer Capati were reported hurt after the vehicle they were riding on from Egypt to Sudan met an accident, according to a report from the Department of Foreign Affairs dated April 26, 2023.
An unidentified OFW was also reportedly wounded by a stray bullet due to the infighting, said DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza.
Amb. Tago was in Sudan to oversee the transfer to Egypt of the OFWs, Daza added.
So far, 80 Filipinos were already evacuated while seven buses have already been contracted for Filipino evacuees, carrying around 300 repatriates from Sudan to Egypt, the DFA added.
Daza said getting buses to transport Filipinos out of Sudan has become a “challenge” due to lack of funds.
“Securing buses to transport Filipinos out of Khartoum has been challenging due to the scarcity of bus providers (and) increasing rental prices,” she said. ###
Ople, for her part, was expected to arrive in Cairo, capital of Egypt to personally assess for herself the situation of Filipinos affected by the fighting in Sudan.
The DMW head said that those who would be repatriated would receive US$200 as an immediate assistance while livelihood assistance would be offered to those who would agree to go home.
Estrada, who is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment, also urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and other concerned agencies to prepare alternative sources of livelihood for the OFWs who will be repatriated, including undocumented workers.
“Asahan na natin na karamihan sa mga OFWs na napilitang umuwi ng wala sa oras dahil sa tumitinding kaguluhan sa Sudan ay walang ipon.
Baka matagalan pa bago sila makapag-relocate para makipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa. For the meantime, makabubuti siguro na mabahagian sila ng tulong ng gobyerno. May nakalaan tayong pondo para sa mga katulad nilang distressed o displaced OFWs,” the senator said.
He noted that P431 million had been allocated under OWWA’s Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay Program (BPBH) in this year’s national budget.
BPBH, a package of livelihood support and assistance, covers returning OWWA member-OFWs who were displaced or distressed from their jobs.
A maximum of P20,000 is given to covered active and non-active OWWA members as startups or additional capital for the expansion of their already existing business.