Cruise ship eyed for evacuation of Filipinos from Middle East

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo
Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

DEPARTMENT of National Defense (DND) secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday, January 8, that they are considering the leasing of two cruise ships for the repatriation of the Filipinos working in the Middle East in the wake of the rising tension between the United States and Iran.

Lorenzana said President Rodrigo Duterte has assigned him to lead the committee tasked to study the evacuation of the Filipinos in the Middle East.

He said, initially, they have prepared two aircrafts and two ships to ferry the Filipinos who opt to come home amid the threat of possible war between the two countries.

However, he said with the over 7,000 Filipinos in Iran and Iraq, alone, the leasing of at least two cruise ships was discussed.

“Kailangan, kasi we should not be thrifty o magtipid tayo sa mga kaligtasan ng mga tao natin, but one of the suggestions that came out last night was kung marami talaga ang gustong umuwi mag-lease tayo o mag-hire tayo ng cruise ship,” Lorenzana said.

“Diba ‘yung cruise ship na malalaki can accomodate about 3,500 to 4,000 people, so kung yun lang naman sa Iran, sa Iraq, 6,000, dalawang cruise ship lang yun provided that these Filipinos would like to come home,” he added.

He said they will be docking the ships in a safe place such as in Saudi Arabia to fetch the Filipino workers.

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is already canvassing the number of Filipinos in the Middle East who wants to go home in the Philippines.

“One of the problems that we are, the challenge that we are facing is if the Filipinos might not want to come home like what happened in Libya before, when the Libyans found out that the Filipinos were trying to go home, dinoble nila yung sweldo kaya ayaw nang umalis.

“And in Iran most of those Filipinos they are married to Iranians so uuwi ba yun, baka hindi uuwi,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)