Press Release
August 2, 2006

US$150,000 Is A Drop In The Bucket
Of What Filipinos Need In Lebanon - Syria

Senator Rodolfo G Biazon today said the reported release of US$150,000 to our embassy in Lebanon is only a drop in the bucket of what is really needed.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security cited that Ambassador Bicharra has indicated that the expenses to support each Filipino to be expatriated back to the country would amount to about US$1,100 broken down as:

US$1,000 plane fare 32 bus fare from Lebanon to Damascus, Syria 32 visa entry fee to the government of Syria 3 a day for emergency food

Biazon clarified, This estimate excludes costs for shelter and medicines.

So, if as reported by Ambassador Bicharra that there are still 1,763 Filipinos waiting for expatriation in Syria, this would require at least US$ 1.93 Million. Therefore, the reported recent release of US$150,000 is less than ten percent of the total amount required. Biazon assessed.

This need would dramatically increase depending on the threats of Israel to expand its ground operations further North into the territory of Lebanon which could go out of control and spill over to neighboring Arab countries where we have hundreds of thousands of OFWs. If this happens, the needs for the protection of the Filipinos in all the affected countries will be beyond the capability of the government to provide. Contingency plans addressing such a possibility should now be formulated.

Biazon recommended, With the available funds not matching the actual needs on the ground, a system of priority must be established as to who should be expatriated first back to the country.

One basic guideline will be to give priority to OFWs who are members of OWWA. The OFWs who are members of OWWA contribute to the OWWA Funds so it will only be fair that this sector be given top priority in being supported by OWWA Funds.

However, the OFWs who are not members of OWWA and are undocumented can not and should not be abandoned. The government must also provide for them.

Biazon concluded, There must be a near to accurate estimate of this need because the funds required by this non- OWWA or undocumented group can not come from OWWA but from government funds.

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