MANILA, Philippines - Six Filipino workers were killed and four others are still missing in the aftermath of the siege by Islamic militants in an Algerian gas field, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.
Citing reports from the Philippine embassy in London and a team from the Philippine embassy in Tripoli sent to Algeria by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said 16 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were accounted for and confirmed alive.
The 16 Filipino workers were all working at the In Amenas gas facility that was attacked by Islamic militants. Four were in Al-Azhar clinic in Algiers, four were billeted in Mercure Hotel and awaiting repatriation, four were repatriated and on their way home, and four were vacationing in the Philippines when the hostage-taking incident happened.
All three Filipinos in the hospital are in stable condition but one is critical because his neck and spine have been affected.
“The death of the six Filipinos was a direct result of the hostage taking incident in the area and mostly by gunshot wounds and the effects of the explosions,” Hernandez said in a press briefing.
The DFA was in the process of notifying the families of the six confirmed dead OFWs and coordinating the return of their remains following the information from the Algerian Foreign Ministry.
The team from the Philippine embassy in Tripoli met on Sunday with the Director General of Asia Pacific Affairs of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Deraghi, who gave the list of all Filipinos at In Amenas who were rescued, confirmed dead and unaccounted for.
The Director General conveyed on behalf of the Algerian government their condolences to the Philippine government and the victims’ families and emphasized that his government took military action and did everything possible to prevent the further loss of lives when it was confirmed that the terrorists had started executing some of the foreign hostages, according to Hernandez.
Hernandez declined to comment about criticism of the Algerian forces’ decision to proceed with the military action.
The Philippine embassy in London informed the DFA that the 39 OFWs who arrived from Spain on Sunday were from a neighboring facility in the area attacked by Islamic militants. They were evacuated immediately for security reasons.
Hernandez said that based on recent reports to the DFA there are more than 1,780 Filipinos working in Algeria – most of them highly and semi-skilled workers in the gas fields.
One of the Filipino survivors arrived yesterday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and was met by his wife and officials of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Joseph Balmaceda said that the Islamist militants hauled the foreign workers onto trucks and put bombs around their necks.
Balmaceda, who worked with British oil giant BP, escaped when the sport utility vehicle (SUV) they were riding in was hit by a rocket fired by the Algerian forces.
“Three other Filipino workers were taken at gunpoint as they arrived for work, tied up and thrown into an SUV along with Japanese and Malaysian hostages,” he said.
Ruben Andrada, another Filipino who was just days into his job, also escaped the carnage. – Mayen Jaymalin, Rudy Santos