After the Department of Foreign Affairs ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in Gaza City, having declared alert level 4 on Saturday, the 131 Filipinos in the city have left the war-torn area.
The agency has four alert levels – 1 or the “precautionary phase,” 2 or the “restriction phase,” 3 being the voluntary repatriation phase, and 4 for the mandatory evacuation or repatriation.
78 of the evacuated Filipinos are now staying near the Rafah border crossing close to Egypt, while the remaining 53 have moved to the south of the Gaza strip, from Gaza City in the north, which is expected to be the main site of impending hostilities between Israeli forces and Hamas militants.
The DFA assured the public that the government would continue working to repatriate the Filipinos and help them cross into Egypt.
So far, three Filipinos have been reported killed by Hamas militants who attacked Israel on October 7, including Negrense caregiver Lorete Alacre. Three others remain missing.
Aside from the 131 Filipinos in Gaza, there are around 30,000 others in Israel, the DFA reported.
The war in Israel and Gaza may have caught everyone by surprise, but as a country with a sizeable population of overseas workers, the Philippine government should always be ready with repatriation and evacuation plans and resources constantly in place and ready to be deployed, especially in conflict-prone areas such as Israel, the Middle East, North Africa, and Ukraine.
The world may have been caught flat footed by the sudden escalation of events in Israel and Gaza, but the Philippines shouldn’t have any excuses for not having at least a plan to protect its citizens who have set off to find a better life in foreign lands. The evacuation and repatriation of Filipinos in areas of conflict and disaster should already come as second nature by now.
If that is not the case, then our government still has a lot of work to do in this world where stability is no longer the norm and two major wars have already broken out over the span of less than three years. Wherever there are significant numbers of Filipinos working abroad, additional safeguards, protections, and emergency plans, along with the allocation of resources, will need to be drawn up and prepared because that is what having a government is for.*