MANILA: The Philippines on Thursday announced it was temporarily suspending the deployment of workers to Israel due to the ongoing Gaza conflict.
Israeli forces have continued to bomb Gaza with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defying international calls for a de-escalation.
Since the crisis began on May 10, Palestinian health officials said 228 people had been killed in Israeli aerial bombardments that had worsened Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation. Israeli authorities put the death toll to date at 12 in Israel.
There are 29,473 Filipinos living and working in Israel and 91 in the Gaza Strip. While there have been no reports of any of them being injured, Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a radio interview that 400 Filipino carers scheduled to leave for Israel in the coming days would not be allowed to leave “while the tension is still high.”
He added, however, that the Filipino Department of Labor and Employment would continue to process job applicants as there was no ban on departures, but actual deployment would be delayed.
“We have not banned the deployment of our workers to Israel. The processing of those who already qualified continues. We are merely suspending their actual departure while the tension is still high,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, said the president supported Bello’s decision on delaying the departure of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). “This is to protect the safety of our countrymen. Of course, as we prepare to evacuate and repatriate our citizens there, why should we send new OFWs there as well?”
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and embassies in Israel and neighboring Egypt and Jordan were poised to assist Filipinos affected by the ongoing violence in the Middle East and were also on standby to evacuate Philippine citizens.