A Filipino migrant group warned that thousands of Filipinos are facing danger after Yemeni Houthi fighters fired missiles at an airport in Abha, Saudi Arabia earlier this week.
Migrante International said that it may already be unsafe for close to 36,000 overseas Filipino workers to be airlifted to safety after Houthi fighters again targeted Abha’s Najran airport with missiles.
Migrante said the Rodrigo Duterte government in the Philippines failed to put in place contingency measures to assist OFWs working in southwest Saudi Arabia close to the Yemeni border.
“Now that airports and control towers are being targeted, it will no longer be safe for Filipinos to be airlifted to safety from these regions,” Migrante said in a statement Thursday.
Migrante said that the Philippine consulate in Jeddah lists about 15,000 Filipinos work in Jizan and 7,850 are in Najran.
It added that in the Asir region, there are 13,000 OFWs in the city of Khamis Mushayt alone.
The city is close to the King Khalid Air Base which earlier suffered airstrikes from Yemeni fighters.
“We are outraged that the Duterte administration remains stone-deaf in hearing our calls to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia as the Philippine government displays the same ineptitude it has shown during the previous outbreak of armed conflict in Libya, Iraq and Syria,” Migrante said in its statement.
The group accused the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs of merely re-echoing “almost the same consulate advisory issued by its office in Jeddah last month.”
“In light of reports from Saudi authorities on the interception of two alleged Houthi ballistic missiles over Taif, one heading toward Makkah and the other toward Jeddah, on Monday morning, 20 May 2019, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wishes to advise our kababayans in the city and its neighboring areas to remain calm but vigilant for any eventualities,” the Consulate said in its Public Advisory No. 44.
“Will the government wait once more for thousands of Filipinos to be caught up in the deadliest last minute before it even lifts a finger?” Migrante asked.
The group said signs of escalation in the fighting have been clear but the Duterte government “wasted several weeks” in merely campaigning for its senatorial candidates in the region.
“This vile apathy demonstrates how much weight the Duterte government places on its lust for power than looking after the welfare of imperilled OFWs,” Migrante said.
Migrante again called on the Duterte government to ensure that concrete actions are already in place to readily assist OFWs in need of immediate evacuation in all locations of Saudi Arabia within missile range.
“It should draw lessons from similar periods in the past when it only responded upon the moment when lives have already been lost,” it said.
The fighting in the Arabian Peninsula escalated March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states intervened and backed the Yemeni government against the Shiite Houthis, bitter rivals of the Saudi Sunnis.
The United Nations earlier said that as many as 50,000 may have already been killed in the Saudi-led and US-backed war in Yemen in the past four years.
Recently, however, Houthis had been firing ballistic missiles deep into Saudi territory that signify the escalation of conflict where tens of thousands of OFWs are stationed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)