DFA confirms Aquino meeting with Syrian official-A A +A
Thursday, January 31, 2013
THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed Thursday that President Benigno Aquino III met with an official of the Syrian government but only to discuss a proposal for the political situation in strife-torn Syria.
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, failed to say however if reports were true that Syrian President Bashar Assad asked for political asylum in the Philippines or financial help for the Syrian national coffers.
Quoting Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Hernandez said that Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban arrived in Manila on Sunday and met with President Aquino.
Shaaban is Assad's trusted political and media adviser.
"Dr. Shaaban, who has been most instrumental in expediting the repatriation of our folks from Syria, had asked to personally deliver a letter from [President] Bashar al-Assad to our President," Hernandez quoted del Rosario as saying.
During their meeting, Shaaban discussed a proposal for the tensed political situation in Syria.
"The President expressed his gratitude for her valuable assistance to date with a request for her continuing help for the over 3,000 Filipinos remaining for possible repatriation," he added.
Shaaban was responsible for convincing the Assad government to waive the penalties for the cancellation of employment contracts by Filipino workers. It allowed the repatriation of thousands of Filipinos.
About 90 percent of the Filipinos working in Syria are undocumented.
Del Rosario had been in Syria in two occasions to urge the Filipinos there to heed the call of the Philippine government regarding mandatory repatriation.
On his visit on September 4, the Foreign Affairs chief met with Shaaban and the foreign minister to ask for assistance regarding the repatriation of a large batch of Filipinos.
During the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting last year, the Philippines abstained from voting to extend the mandate of the panel probing the human rights abuses in Syria.
The Philippine government also did not call for Assad's ouster, citing the political and security situation there that could affect the Filipino workers.
Most of the victims of the bloody conflict in Syria were civilians. (CVB/Sunnex)