MANILA: More than 11,000 Filipinos in Libya have ignored appeals to evacuate, with many choosing to take their chances in the war-torn country rather than risk unemployment at home, a foreign department spokesman said Monday.
Only 200 were at the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli even as the government prepared to send a chartered ship to ferry them out, spokesman Charles Jose said.
Originally there were 13,000 Filipinos working in Libya but after the government called on them to return, due to the worsening security situation, only “a little more than 1,000” had fled or were waiting to leave, he said.
“So we have 11,000-plus OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] who have not arranged to leave,” Jose said.
“We are hearing that a lot of them would rather take the chance of surviving the war rather than [risking] the uncertainty of not having work here,” he told reporters.
The foreign department spokesman added that while some might be willing to risk the danger, others, especially those working in the medical field, might be under pressure to stay.
Libyan authorities were asking medical workers to remain because their departure would paralyze the health service which is heavily reliant on Filipino personnel, he said.
About 10 million Filipinos work around the world, earning more money in a wide range of sectors than they could in their impoverished homeland.
At least 40 Filipino workers from Libya arrived at Manila’s international airport Monday, recounting the dangers they faced but also giving reasons they wanted to stay.
Welder Marlon Lerio, who worked in Misrata, said he was frightened by people firing warning shots as buses evacuated him and other Filipinos out of Libya.
But he also described how he and many others had paid hefty “placement fees” to recruitment agencies so they could find a job abroad.
“We paid a lot to our agency and now, we have no assurance we can get our placement fee back. I was contracted to work there for two years but I only worked two and a half months,” he said.
“I had to take loans just to get to Libya. It cost about 100,000 pesos ($2,300),” he said, adding he did not know how he would make the money back.