Press Release
July 20, 2006


Sen. Mar Roxas yesterday said there is a need for the country to pray and to close ranks behind the national effort to safeguard the safety of the estimated 30,000 overseas Filipino workers trapped in Lebanon by the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, now that the government is already implementing its contingency plan.

We should close ranks behind the national effort to get our OFWs in Lebanon out of harms way, Roxas said in a statement. We also need to pray a lot and harder, he added.

The senator from Capiz said that a war situation is always difficult to contemplate and manage even if the country is not part of the conflict, but even more so when our own nationals are entrapped because of their search for a better life.

Noting the need of the OFWs for guidance from a single, authoritative source, Roxas said the appropriate government agencies, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment should be left alone as the lead agencies responsible for carrying out the contingency plan and for setting the direction of the national response to the conflict.

I am sure the families of affected OFWs would prefer to hear about evacuation plans and details from a single agency, meaning the Department of Foreign Affairs, while welfare inquiries can be handled by the labor department through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. All the rest must defer to these two departments that have field officers on the ground handling all these complex arrangements under enormous time pressure.

Roxas, however, said that other government agencies should lend support to the national effort. Both Houses of Congress would welcome it if the executive branch asks to enlist Congressional support because we would help in whatever way we can, he said.

I am sure that all Filipinos are prepared to help and support a detailed plan to help our workers get out of harms way. Good planning is the key, and the Department of Foreign Affairs should be given full budgetary support not only by using OWWA funds which are basically workers contributions but through a contingency budget that would include trauma counseling and reintegration activities for those who wish to come back home for good.

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