MANILA – Twelve Filipinos evacuated from Tripoli are expected to arrive in the Philippines on Thursday afternoon, the Philippine Embassy in Libya said following the first inter-agency repatriation carried out from a conflict zone.
“Fortunately, everything went according to plan despite the rising tensions we monitored in certain areas along the way to the border. We are glad our 12 kababayan will soon be reunited with their loved ones back home,” Chargé d’Affaires Elmer Cato said.
Cato said the repatriation was carried out jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department of National Defense (DND), the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Cato noted this is the first time the DND, the DOTr, the AFP and the PCG participated in repatriating Filipinos from an active conflict area in recent years. Most repatriations are carried out by the DFA and the DOLE.
In the latest repatriation, two AFP officers escorted the five-vehicle convoy that evacuated the 12 Filipinos by land to the Libyan-Tunisian border where they were turned over to other embassy personnel and members of a PCG liaison group that brought them to Tunis.
The embassy evacuated the repatriates, who include several senior nurses, by land as flight operations at the Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli have been suspended due to the fighting.
The BRP Gabriela Silang, the newest offshore patrol vessel of the PCG, was also placed on standby in the port of Catania in southern Italy.
Cato said the vessel had instructions to proceed to the Libyan coast should the convoy encounter problems along the way and is forced to turn back.
The vessel was en route to Manila early this year but was directed to stay in Malta to support the possible evacuation of Filipinos from Tripoli where conflict has been raging for almost a year.
The embassy opted to proceed to the Tunisian border, about 160 kilometers from Tripoli after it monitored some fighting along the route to the Misrata International Airport some 200 kilometers away.
The latest repatriation brings to 27 the total number of Filipinos the embassy has assisted in returning home since the start of the year.
Since the current conflict in Tripoli broke out in April, 158 Filipinos have been repatriated by the DFA and the DOLE. (PNA)