The Department of Foreign Affairs on Sunday said it has not received so far any reports of casualties among Filipinos in Israel following Palestinian Islamist group Hamas’ attacks.
“Ang situation, sabi ng ating embahada — they are in touch with the Filipinos — so far … wala pang balitang casualties. Mabuti naman,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs Eduardo Jose de Vega said in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB.
(The situation, according to our embassy — they are in touch with the Filipinos — so far.. there were no reports of casualties [among Filipinos]. That’s good.)
De Vega said there are almost 30,000 Filipinos in Israel but most of them are not in the southern portion which is near the Gaza Strip.
“Karamihan ng mga Pilipino [ay] kasambahay o caregiver, [at] nasa Tel Aviv, Haifa. Mga 70 km [away from Gaza Strip] so hindi ‘yon mismo ang nilusob. Pero may tumatama na konting missile, so ‘yun din [mino-monitor],” he said.
(Most of the Filipinos in Israel are domestic workers or caregivers working in Tel Aviv and Haifa. That’s about 70 kilometers away from the Gaza Strip, so that’s far from the area where gunmen attacked. But there are some missiles hitting [Tel Aviv and Haifa] so we are also monitoring.)
“May mga Pilipinong nag-aalala dahil sa nangyayari. However, lahat sila sumusunod naman sa patakaran ng Israeli government at Pilipinas na stay at home at malapit dapat sila sa bomb shelter. Kasi lahat ng gusali sa Israel mayroon noon eh,” de Vega said.
(There are Filipinos who are anxious about the events. However, all of them are following the instructions of the Israeli and Philippine governments to stay at home and be near bomb shelters. All buildings in Israel have bomb shelters.)
The DFA official said the Philippine Embassy in Israel is in touch with the Filipino community.
He also said the DFA is awaiting the next report of the embassy regarding the situation.
Regarding social media posts about Filipinos supposedly kidnapped by armed men, de Vega said the DFA has not yet received reports about it.
“Wala pang nakarating ngayon [na report],” de Vega said.
(We have not yet received a report on it.)
“May 300 agricultural workers near the area pero accounted for naman daw,” he added.
(There are 300 agricultural workers near the area but they are all accounted for.)
Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss, meanwhile, on Sunday said that there is no verification yet on the circulating reports that there were Filipinos who were held hostage by militants.
“We have close to 30,000 Filipino OFWs in Israel. We treat them like we treat any Israeli national. We try to protect them as well as we protect our Israeli citizens. We know some foreign nationals who were killed and probably some that have been kidnapped. We have no verification of information regarding Filipino nationals,” he said at a press conference.
Fluss stressed that Israel is still in an emergency situation and things have not yet stabilized there, thus gathering of information is still ongoing.
“We don’t have enough information yet on the identities and names of the people killed, injured, and kidnapped. This is something which is still ongoing. The fighting is still continuing until now,” he added.
De Vega urged Filipinos with relatives in Israel to contact the DFA should they lose contact with their kin.
“Kung mayroon kayong kamag-anak na nawalan ng contact sa inyo, please contact us sa OFW Help… Puwede niyo rin tawagan ang DMW [Department of Migrant Workers]. So far, wala pa kaming info na may nadakip o namatay,” he said.
(If you have relatives [in Israel] whom you lost contact with, please contact us at OFW Help. You may also call the DMW. So far, we have no information yet about any Filipino was kidnapped or who died.)
Pinoys in Gaza
Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said Sunday it is monitoring the situation of around 200 OFWs based in the Gaza Strip where Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has fired a barrage of rockets from.
“Sa 200 OFWs dito sa affected areas sa Gaza Strip, dito tayo nakatutok,” OWWA Administrator Arnell Ignacio said in a Super Radyo dzBB interview.
(We are focused on the 200 OFWs in the affected areas in Gaza Strip.)
“Sa kabuuan ng Israel, mayroong tayong mga 24,807 [na mga Pilipino]. Pero dito sa nabanggit nating area na kritikal dito sa Gaza Strip — ‘yung Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot, estimated natin mga 200 OFWs ang meron tayo,” he added.
(We have about 24,807 Filipinos in Israel. But in the critical areas here in the Gaza Strip—Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot, we estimate that around 200 OFWs are there.)
Ignacio said authorities have accounted for five caregivers employed in Gaza, while they are still waiting for updates regarding six others.
De Vega said no Filipinos have asked to be repatriated yet, but the DFA is ready to do so anytime repatriation is needed.
“Wala pa kasi medyo sanay sila sa Israel na palaging nangyayari ito every so often. Pero ngayon matindi, handa tayong mag-repatriate kung gano’n,” he said.
(No Filipino has requested for repatriation yet since Filipinos in Israel are used to conflicts such as this every so often. But now that the situation is more intense, we are ready to repatriate if needed.)
De Vega said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has always said the Philippine government should protect OFWs and repatriate them if needed.
“Ang instruction palagi [ni Presidente] is: ‘Always monitor and give utmost protection [to OFWs]. Kung kailangang mag-repatriate, mag-repatriate as quick as possible. Huwag mag-atubili, gagastusan namin ‘yan,'” he said.
(The instruction always [of the President] is: ‘Always monitor and give utmost protection [to OFWs]. If repatriation is needed, then repatriate as quick as possible. Do not hesitate; we will cover all costs.’)
As to implementing a deployment ban of OFWs to Israel, de Vega said this has yet to be discussed.
“Pag-uusapan pa kung magkakaroon ng deployment ban patungong Israel… Wala pang rekomendasyon ‘yung ating embahada,” he said.
(Implementing a deployment ban for Israel is still up for discussion. Our embassy has no recommendation regarding the matter yet.)
On Saturday, Hamas launched the biggest attack on Israel in years, firing rockets and deploying gunmen to several Israeli towns. At least 22 people in Israel were killed. A “state of war alert” was issued by Israel’s Home Front Command thereafter.
Israel said the Iran-backed group had declared war as its army confirmed fighting with militants in several Israeli towns and military bases near Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, vowed to retaliate.
The death toll among Israelis climbed to at least 250 by Sunday morning, PH time. Meanwhile, more than 230 Gazans were also killed as Israel launched retaliatory strikes, according to a report by Reuters.
The Philippine Embassy in Israel announced early Sunday (PH time) that it will be closed beginning Sunday, October 8 “until further notice” due to the security situation.
“For emergencies, please contact the Embassy’s emergency number, +972-54-4661188,” it said.
The embassy earlier advised OFWs living near the Gaza Strip and south Israel to follow the safety guidelines released by the Home Front Command through an instructional video.
Some OFWs working at a hotel in the city of Hersliya headed to a bomb shelter while they were being interviewed by GMA Integrated News. —with a report from Giselle Ombay/KG, GMA Integrated News