35 OFWs in first batch from Kabul now in Manila, DFA to fly home others


THIRTY-FIVE Filipinos employed in Afghanistan arrived Tuesday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), which earlier gave assurances that all the 140 others still in the country overrun by the Taliban will be brought home safely.

The Filipinos who are staff members of the US Embassy in Kabul were able to leave the Taliban-saturated city on Sunday by means of US military planes that took them to Doha, Qatar, awaiting repatriation to Manila.

The DFA said these migrant Filipinos “joined the DFA chartered plane from Doha to Manila and the group arrived Tuesday at the Naia Terminal 1.”

Originally, the 35 Filipinos were part of the 500-person staff of the US Embassy who were airlifted from the Embassy compound to the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA)—the official name of Kabul Airport—by Chinook helicopters.

“From the HKIA all the embassy staff including the OFWs boarded a giant C-17 Cargo Master planes that flew them to the US Airbase in Doha,” officials said.

“That still leaves around 130 overseas Filipino workers [OFWs] in Kabul who want to leave as soon as possible,” according to recruitment consultant Manny Geslani.

He said about 80 more OFWs have signed up to join the repatriation flight being arranged by the Philippine Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The rest of the OFWs have contingency plans with their employers, he added.

“They already hold airplane tickets out of Kabul but civilian flight operations at the HKIA have been suspended by the US military who wants to prioritize the departure of their American employees, including Afghan interpreters,”Geslani said.

DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Mendez said “the DFA is working non-stop to explore all options to ensure the safety and welfare of our people in Afghanistan in the face of challenging conditions.” He asked for patience as they try to accomplish the sensitive mission, perhaps one of the most difficult repatriation tasks undertaken by DFA in recent years.

Geslani said there were originally 175 members of the Samahang Pilipino sa Afghanistan (SPA), but the departure of the first batch of 35 OFWs on Sunday means there are some 140 more Filipinos left behind in Afghanistan.

“Some are in Herat working for HART, a British security firm, and they might have been brought to another country [by] the British firm,” he said.

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