By Marita Moaje
Philippine Ambassador to Poland Leah Ruiz (Screengrab)
MANILA – Philippine Ambassador to Poland Leah Basinag-Ruiz said Filipino women in Ukraine married to locals are undecided if they will leave the strife-torn European nation or not.
Ukainian men aged 18 to 60 have been restricted to leave as they must join the Army to help defend their country against Russian forces.
During an OFW (overseas Filipino worker) town hall meeting initiated by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and aired online on Monday, Ruiz said they are exhausting all efforts to assist remaining Filipinos in Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian wives have no problem and we were able to issue them visas but when the Ukrainian males were prevented to leave, that’s when the dilemma started,” Ruiz said in Filipino.
Still, the Philippine Embassy in Warsaw, Poland is urging all Filipinos still in Ukraine to decide immediately so they can be assisted at once.
“The priority right now is to ensure that Filipinos are brought out of harm’s way,” Ruiz said.
DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said six Filipinos have returned home last week while 13 evacuated to Poland.
The 13 were met at the Rava-Ruska-Hrebenne Border Crossing Station on Sunday by a bus, with DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on it, after a five-hour wait.
She added that six Filipino evacuees are now in Moldova on their own, eight seafarers were rescued from bulk carried MV S Breeze at the border entrance to Moldova, four are in Romania, and another eight are in Hungary.
The Philippines was set to vote “yes” at an emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday night (PH time) to expresses “explicit condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine”.
The Philippines will especially condemn the use of separatism and secession as a weapon of diplomacy for inviting and inflicting terrible cruelties and indiscriminate killings far in excess of that of any other kind of conflict.
“No one can trust news reports of casualties on either side but 14,000 have been killed since 2014. In the current fog of lies, we have yet to determine the true casualties on both sides. We appeal for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructures. We strongly urge the cessation of hostilities; but while an offense can be stopped at will the defense cannot rest until the offense stops,” the Philippine statement shared by the DFA read.
The Philippines will call for “massive assistance commensurate with the growing humanitarian crisis and echo the UN Secretary General’s appeal for respect of humanitarian principles to protect civilians and civilian infrastructures in Ukraine. Safe access to humanitarian assistance must be assured by the most effective means”.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Foreign Ministers previously called on all relevant parties to exercise maximum restraint and make utmost efforts to pursue dialogues through all channels, including diplomatic means to contain the situation, to de-escalate tensions, and to seek peaceful resolution in accordance with international law, the principles of the UN Charter, and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.
“We believe that there is still room for a peaceful dialogue to prevent the situation from getting out of control. For peace, security, and harmonious co-existence to prevail, it is the responsibility of all parties to uphold the principles of mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and equal rights of all nations,” the Asean statement on February 26 read.
Arriola assured that the Philippine government is doing everything it can to help Filipinos in all areas.
“Lahat ito ay gagawan natin ng paraan na maka-uwi sila at sinasabi lang natin sa lahat ng ating mga kababayan (We will exhaust all efforts to help them and) we assure you that we are doing the best that we can to bring home all of them safely,” she said.
Ruiz said it is now becoming more difficult to get a bus to transport the Filipinos from capital city Kyiv to Lviv in the western side.
Coordination is ongoing and an embassy team is on standby in Lviv to assist those who will arrive on their own.
Aside from private cars, the trains from Kyiv to Lviv are still running.
She also asked Filipinos to constantly update the Philippine Embassy of their situation.
“Kailangan masigurado na escorted sila ng embassy na makatawid sa Ukrainian side at sa Polish side. ‘Yan ang inaasikasyo ngayon (We have to make sure that they are escorted by the embassy so they can safely cross from the Ukrainian side to the Polish side. That is what we are doing right now),” Ruiz said.
“We are using our diplomatic cover to ensure that we are able to speedily bring our Filipinos to safety,” she added. (PNA)