A few thousand or so overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have returned to our country after their harrowing experience escaping from strife-torn Libya where its autocratic leader Col. Moammar Muhammad al-Gadhafi continues to hold on to power staying in his palace and deciding to slug it out against the people of Libya. Gadhafi is now using a good number of loyalists and foreign mercenaries. Thank God that this did not happen to us in the Philippines, when then beleaguered Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos decided to leave the country and save it from the flames of an ugly and bloody revolt against his regime.
But as we saw on nationwide TV, a lot of the returning Pinoy workers from Libya had contempt for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for not doing enough for them, unlike the other foreign governments which had flags signifying their locations at the Libyan border, complete with doctors, nurses, food supplies and transportation for their citizens. But for the Philippines, they were literally left on their own.
In fairness to the DFA, newly-appointed Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario immediately flew to the Middle East to personally supervise whatever operations that were hastily set up by the DFA in Egypt and in Libya when the unrest spread into that country. By then some 440 Filipinos were able to cross from Libya to Tunisia controlled by Libyan forces loyal to Gadhafi and those who want him out of power.
Hearing the numerous complaints by our OFWs who have returned to our country gives you the idea of how unprepared the Aquino administration is to handle such a crisis. Yet there are ten thousand more out there in Libya waiting for some kind of rescue plan by the government. No doubt, this is one crisis that Pres. Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III can no longer blame on the Arroyo administration.
I still recall how P-Noy and the opposition lambasted to the hilt the Arroyo administration for its unpreparedness when Typhoon “Ondoy” struck Central Luzon and inundated Metro Manila. Now these same people who pointed an accusing finger on the unprepared Arroyo government are not being fingered by the returning OFWs for doing nothing to help their plight in their time of need! So let’s call Libya, P-Noy’s Ondoy!
While we should praise the DFA Secretary for wasting no time by going to the Middle East in order to supervise the evacuation of more OFWs, but what can he really do if there were no concrete plans by the P-Noy administration to conduct a massive evacuation of our OFWs? This is why I agree with the plan by Congress to give P-Noy those special powers so that a budget can be released to charter planes to get our so-called new Filipinos out of harm’s way. But even those plans are slowly being done, as if there was no such urgency.
While I submit that no one predicted the fall of the despots that ruled a lot of countries in the Middle East, just like no one predicted that the Iron Curtain would fall, except perhaps our Blessed Virgin Mother who told the little girls in Fatima that if we consecrated Russia to her Immaculate Heart, Russia would not spread her errors. But in our case, the major issue is lack of money to handle the logistics nightmare of evacuating people from Libya.
I know it’s no joke to evacuate thousands of OFWs from a foreign country. But it can be done if someone had a plan of action. Hence the bottom line is only money! Maybe we should tap that P21 billion that was stashed in the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and make good use of that money, rather than its intended purpose as a dole out to the poor, who should be taught to fish for food.
With money, I’m sure that there are enough airlines or airplanes for hire out there to assemble an evacuation fleet. This is the least we can do for our OFWs who have contributed record sums that have kept our economy afloat while the rest of the western world wallowed in the global crisis. Now it’s our turn to take care of them in their time of need.
No doubt that the ripple effect of the Libyan crisis has spread worldwide which has now caused the prices of oil products to literally hit the roof in record levels. For us Filipinos it is a double whammy of sorts as it has affected our OFWs who are forced to leave Libya and return home without any prospects for a job.
Meanwhile, businesses here are reeling from the effects of high oil prices, especially that the oil companies just raised the pump prices of fuel to a whooping P2.50 per liter on top of the P1.50 that they raised last week. In my book the independent oil companies haven’t helped our economy. Worse, the smuggling continues unabated, now I heard it is the Catigbian Inc. doing this. Is it true that they are close to the President? Hmmm banyan!
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