The online news portal of TV5
MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs is sending a rapid response team to Syria following a bomb blast that killed the Middle East country's defense minister and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said Thursday.
The Philippine government is worried about the raised tensions in Syria as there are some 8,000 to 9,000 Filipinos still in that country, Hernandez said.
The rapid response team, composed of representatives of the departments of foreign affairs, labor and employment, and interior and local government, is meant to help in the repatriation of the Filipinos who are still there.
Hernandez said the team would leave for Syria as soon as possible, but could not as yet give the exact departure date or the names of the team members.
The team will go not only to the Syrian capital of Damascus, but also to Homs, Daraa, and Idlib, where overseas Filipino workers are known to be staying and working mostly as domestic workers.
Earlier, Hernandez said the Philippine government is finding it difficult to get the OFWs back from their employers who have paid between $4,000 and $10,000 for their deployment at the height of the Syrian crisis more than a year ago.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria in March 2011, the Philippine government has been able to evacuate about 1,800 OFWs after paying their employers $4,000 each for the deployment fee they paid the recruiters. The amount does not include the plane fare and other incidental expenses.
Hernandez said negotiations with the employers to bring down the deployment fee are ongoing.