By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
EVACUATED. Philippine Ambassador to Poland Leah Basinag-Ruiz (center, wearing mask) receives the first 37 Filipinos in Lviv after they were evacuated from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Friday night (Feb. 25, 2022, PHL time). The number increased to 40 as of Saturday afternoon (February 26). (Photo courtesy of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Arriola)
MANILA – At least 40 Filipinos have fled Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and headed to the western city of Lviv after Russia launched a full-scale attack on Feb. 24.
In a statement Saturday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed their safe arrival in Lviv, expecting the number to increase in the coming days.
“The Philippine Embassy in cooperation with DFA-OUMWA (Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs), is committed to assisting the remaining Filipinos in Kyiv and in other parts of Ukraine in order to bring them out of harm’s way while there is still time,” Philippine Ambassador to Poland Leah Basinang-Ruiz said.
A team from the Philippine Embassy in Warsaw, which holds jurisdiction over Ukraine, set up a base in Lviv to facilitate the repatriation of Filipino nationals via a humanitarian corridor established between Philippine authorities and Poland.
Lviv is around 70 kilometers away from the Polish-Ukrainian border and is the main exit point for Filipinos arriving from the capital.
“Yong bulk ng mga Pilipino, most of them are (in Kyiv) so logical na exit point talaga ang Lviv (The bulk of our Filipinos, most of them are in Kyiv so it’s logical that the exit point is Lviv). If there are other people, for example they are in Odesa, they have to go through Moldova and our Embassy in Hungary is making representations to help them out,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said in a DZMM interview on Saturday.
The Philippines has so far repatriated six Filipinos since tensions escalated in the country.
There are an estimated 380 Filipino nationals in Ukraine but Arriola said only 181 have coordinated with the DFA.
Some of the 40 Filipinos who just arrived in Lviv are still reluctant to go home, either because of work or they have families in Ukraine.
“Actually ‘yong mga nagpunta nga rin ng Lviv, hindi rin lahat decided pa na umuwi so sinubukan talaga silang kausapin but of course hindi natin mapilit. Pero marami talaga tayong mga kababayan na until now they’re still vacillating on whether to stay or to go dahil umaasa pa sila na maaayos yung sitwasyon sa Ukraine (Actually the ones who were evacuated to Lviv, not all are decided to go home, we tried to talk to them but of course you cannot force them. We have a lot of fellow Filipinos there that until now, they’re still vacillating on whether to stay or to go because they’re hoping that the situation would still would come back to normal),” Arriola said.
She added: “Yong mga gustong umuwi iyon ‘yong mare-repatriate natin, ‘yong mga gustong mag-stay we will still assist because we have a presence on the ground anyway (For those who want to go home we will repatriate but we will still help even those who want to stay).” (PNA)