Over 500 OFWs in Israel are from Central Visayas

Over 500 OFWs in Israel are from Central Visayas
AP File

AS THE Israel-Hamas war continues, the Department of Migrant Workers’ regional office is preparing to receive more than 500 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who could be returning to their hometowns in Central Visayas.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has also expressed her willingness to assist Cebuanos returning from Israel due to the ongoing conflict.

According to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) 7, there are 588 OFWs from Central Visayas working in Israel, mostly employed as caregivers.

The Philippine Government has not ordered mandatory repatriation for the 30,000 OFWs based in Israel, but it did for the 131 Filipinos based in Gaza after the Department of Foreign Affairs declared Alert Level 4 on Sunday, October 14, as the Israeli forces besieged the territory with airstrikes and prepared for a ground invasion.

DMW 7 officer-in-charge Karl Arriola said on Thursday, October 19, 2023, around 120 OFWs from Central Visayas working in Israel have confirmed their well-being in a survey.

Arriola said no OFWs’ families in Central Visayas have contacted the agency regarding their kin based in Israel.

Mass repatriation

Despite the absence of requests, Arriola said the DMW 7 is ready for mass repatriation of OFWs from Israel.

He said that upon the return of OFWs to Central Visayas, the department will provide logistical support, psycho-social intervention, and financial assistance.

“We also have a reintegration program. Hopefully, they will avail themselves of it. We must ensure that migration remains only an option. Hopefully, when they arrive, they will also explore other opportunities,” said Arriola.

In an interview on Thursday, Governor Garcia said the Capitol will strengthen its reintegration program for returning OFWs.

During her discussion with officials from DMW’s central and regional offices, Garcia said they talked about how her office can help OFWs repatriated from Israel.

“I said that we could help you by giving them priority in our existing [livelihood] programs such as Sugbo Negosyo, Sugbo Kahanas, the enhanced countryside development program, and Sugbusog,” she said.

DMW officials, led by Undersecretary Bernard Olalia, visited Garcia to discuss the possibility of working together to facilitate the deployment of OFWs from Cebu and protect them from illegal recruitment.

Sixteen overseas OFWs and a one-month-old infant repatriated from Israel arrived at the NAIA Terminal on Wednesday, October 18.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Owwa Deputy Administrator Honey Quiño said a second batch of Filipino repatriates from Israel is set to arrive in the Philippines on Friday afternoon, October 20.

A source from Owwa said a Cebuana overseas worker is expected to arrive in Cebu on Friday at 3 p.m.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said they are prepared to provide assistance to affected OFWs.

Rama has directed the Department of Manpower Development and Placement to oversee this effort.

Rama has also instructed the Public Information Office to be available for families and workers in need of assistance.

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