President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said the Israeli government has committed to allow Filipinos, who were trapped in the Gaza strip, to exit to Egypt during the weekend.
In a press conference in Malacañang last Friday, the chief executive disclosed that the Foreign Minister of Israel made the commitment during his meeting with Philippine Ambassador to Israel Pedro “Junie” Laylo, Jr.
“So they have made a commitment to us to allow pinoys to exit by today or tomorrow (November 4, 2023),” Marcos said partly in Filipino.
Of the remaining 134 Filipinos in Gaza, 115 are seeking repatriation from the Philippine government.
Those who want to return home are currently trapped in the Rafah Border awaiting for the authorization of Israel so they could pass to Egypt, where they will be repatriated.
“When the time comes for them to cross [Rafah], they will be brought [to Cairo] and will be repatriated,” Marcos said.
He said government efforts to bring them home was marred with “complication” since some of them are married to Palestinian nationals, who are not allowed by Israeli forces to leave Gaza.
“So, many of them are undecided if they want to leave or not because they don’t want to leave their [Palestinian] spouses and their children,” Marcos said.
The President said he also offered to help other Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries so they can also pull out their nationals from Gaza.
Initially, two Filipino doctors, who are members of Doctors Without Borders, were able to escape Gaza after Israel allowed foreign passport holders and international aid workers to cross Rafah earlier this week.
Gaza is currently under Israeli blockade after militant Hamas forces launched their brutal attack from the said city to southern Israel last month.
The attack prompted Israel to declare war against Hamas and launch an ongoing counteroffensive in Gaza. Thousands have died from the said conflict.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen spoke over the phone Thursday.
“We will do everything on our part in order to facilitate the safe exit of the Filipinos from Gaza. Remember, we are in a war. There are also other players in this complicated situation such as Egypt and the UN,” Israel Ambassador Ilan Fluss said.
He clarified that Israel will only allow Filipinos and will not allow Palestinian spouses to exit Gaza. (With additional report from Malou Talosig-Bartolome)
Image credits: AP