P16-M fund ready to repatriate Filipinos in Gaza

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EVACUATION. Palestinians with their belongings flee their homes in Gaza City after Israel’s military issued an evacuation order on Oct. 13, 2023. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said there are still 69 Filipinos who have decided to leave Gaza and are just waiting for a signal to exit. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/Tazpit Press Service)

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) assured Filipinos who want to leave the Gaza Strip that a USD297,746 (approximately PHP16 million) repatriation fund is on standby to cover the last Filipino who will decide to return to the Philippines.

To date, however, the Rafah border crossing was closed due to “security reasons,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said Thursday.

“The embassy has a standby fund of USD297,746 for local transportation, accommodation in Cairo, flight tickets and welfare assistance — that is for 150 persons,” he said in a text message.

De Vega said there are still 69 Filipinos who have decided to leave the besieged strip and are just waiting for a signal to exit.

There were a total of 137 Filipinos in the Gaza Strip when the Israel-Hamas war broke out following the latter’s surprise attack on south Israel on Oct. 7.

Two Filipino medical workers crossed the Rafah border last week followed by 40 others on Wednesday who are now all in Cairo.

In a separate interview on Thursday, Philippine Ambassador to Egypt Ezzedin Tago said the situation on the ground remains fluid as the border opening would depend on the security of the area.

But he said officers from the Philippine Embassy in Cairo are on standby and monitoring the situation at the Egyptian side of the border crossing.

“My colleagues are there, they were at the border the whole time but there is no signal between us (in Cairo) and them. When they left they did report that nobody was able to cross,” he added.

“We cannot expect that something would be set in stone, that it will be regular, it’s really a very fluid situation,” he said.

 

Arriving tomorrow

Meanwhile, the DFA said 35 of the 40 who earlier crossed the border will finally leave Egypt on the afternoon of Nov. 9 (Cairo time) and will arrive in the Philippines at around 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 (Manila time).

Also flying to Manila with them is the Palestinian wife of one of the repatriates.

“Physically they’re all good and I’m sure that all of them are stressed but are relieved,” Tago said.

Tago added that the embassy had asked the DFA and concerned offices to ensure that the arriving repatriates would be given psychosocial support.

The Philippine Embassy in Cairo also handed over financial assistance to the 40 individuals on Nov. 8.

“They gave it yesterday, all of them have come from a situation of war and they may need some financial assistance for the next few days or weeks,” Tago said.

Of the remaining five, three opted to stay with their Egyptian patriarch in Egypt while one was a pregnant woman being accompanied by her mother, who is also a Philippine passport holder.

Tago said her doctor refused to give her a fit-to-travel certificate as she is more than 30 weeks pregnant. (PNA)

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