• Melo Acuna

Filipinos in Libya send an estimated P1.3 billion a year in remittances

Philippine Embassy in Libya more concerned of intense fighting than COVID-19

MANILA – Despite the bitter civil war, most Filipinos opt to work and stay at various facilities in Tripoli and other areas in Libya.

Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato, in an interview over Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido said there are still 2,300 Filipinos in the oil-rich country.

Marami na namang explosions as there’s an ongoing civil war,” he said at about 9:00 A.M. Manila time or 3:00 A.M. in Tripoli. He said Libya has reported 77 COVID-19 cases and he considers Filipinos as fortunate because nobody among the health workers serving in the frontlines have tested positive.

What worries them at the Embassy is the increasing number of shelling which has targeted residential areas, near the residential quarters or dormitories of Filipino medical workers.

He said a 60-year old female nurse suffered shrapnel wound over the weekend. Two others were reported to have been injured last year.

“We have advised them to consider repatriation or at least evacuation from critical areas to avoid armed conflict but most of them said they’re better off in their areas,” said Mr. Cato, a former media practitioner-turned-diplomat.

He said they talked to about 30 Filipino workers last night and appraised them of the escalation in armed conflict. He said they are concerned the workers may not be able to leave nor the Embassy may not be able to rescue them. However, Mr. Cato said the workers opted to remain in their homes as the fighting and bombings in 2011 and 2014 were more intense.

He admitted despite all the efforts to convince the workers to leave, their efforts have not been rewarding enough as the families back home remain the workers’ priority. The Filipinos in Libya are either working in medical facilities, the academe and other allied services.

“With an average of US$1,000 dollars remitted monthly to the Philippines, we estimate the Filipinos in Libya send an estimated P1.3 billion a year to the country’s economy,” he added. He understood why most Filipinos opt to stay in a country where armed conflict has been going on for years. He learned nurses in their 40s, 50s and 60s, some of who arrived in Tripoli during the 1980s. He added he talked to a 68-year old nurse who spoke highly of Libyan nationals who have considered them family.

The nurse said during the height of the conflict in 2011 and 2014, the Libyans never abandoned them and protected them from harm.

The head of mission said he met three generations of Filipinos in Libya, a nurse who had a daughter who studied nursing and married a Filipino nurse and began working in Tripoli and now has a child of her own.

“They are deeply-rooted in Libya,” Chargé Cato added. They were successful in repatriating 149 Filipino nationals last year out of a total of 2,300. They also had 29 repatriates this year and 40 are waiting to return to Manila but are still hopeful the airport will be reopened.

The Philippines is one of the few remaining countries with an active diplomatic presence in Libya. (Melo M. Acuña)

Philippine Embassy to Libya Chargé de'Affaires Elmer G. Cato. (Screen grab from Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido/Melo M. Acuna)

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