251 Bikolano OFWs in Libya need rescuing

LEGAZPI CITY, March 2 2011 -- There are at least 251 Bikolano overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that were caught in an armed conflict in Libya that need to be rescued and brought back to the country, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Bikol said Wednesday.

The agency said OWWA database records indicated that the 251 OFWs are residents of Bikol and are presently working in Libya. Of these, 98 are from Camarines Sur; Albay, 85; Camarines Norte, 29; Sorsogon, 25; Catanduanes, 8; and Masbate, 6.

Jocelyn Hapal, OWWA Bicol director, said the OFWs in Libya are mostly professionals and skilled workers in construction firms and oil industries there.

She said since the start of the political crisis in Libya, her agency has received calls and entertained walk-in queries from families of 32 OFWs working in trouble country. These queries were acted upon by the agency, she added.

To assist families of OFWs in the Middle East, OWWA Bicol has activated the 24/7 Hotline in this city where the agency has made available “Libreng Tawag” free calls to immediate families of OFWs.

As this developed, Albay Governor Joey Salceda has launched a Libyan OFW Assistance Desk manned by Albay Public Safety and Management Office (APSEMO) in Albay and in Manila.

Salceda said the desk would operate 24 hours to assist OFWs working in Libya and families of OFWs in the province seeking queries and assistance concerning OFWs' plight in the Middle East.

The desk has inventoried and identified 73 OFWs from Albay working in Libya and seeking assistance for immediate repatriation. (PNA)