OFW safety, not asylum, in meet

Posted on February 01, 2013

MALACAÑANG has confirmed that President Benigno S. C. Aquino III met with the political adviser of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to ensure the safety of Filipinos in the war-torn nation, not to offer political asylum to the beleaguered leader.

“I asked [Foreign Affairs] Secretary [Albert F.] del Rosario, and he said that was never discussed so where did the idea providing political asylum come from?” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing at the Palace yesterday.

Mr. Lacierda said the meeting was primarily to ensure the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with the escalation of armed conflict in Syria.

“We have not ventured into that [political asylum] primarily for one thing, we have several thousands of OFWs there. Our priority right now is to ensure the safety of our Filipino citizens in Syria,” Mr. Lacierda said.

Based on the statement of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Raul T. Hernandez, he added, “they discussed more on the welfare of our Filipino compatriots in Syria.”

Mr. Lacierda further said that there were no discussions on political issues hounding Syria.

“As to the political position, what’s our political position, we have not discussed that with the Department of Foreign Affairs,” added the Palace spokesman.

The Syrian government has been cooperating with the Philippines on the repatriation of OFWs, Mr. Lacierda.

“They’ve been very helpful, for instance, in allowing Filipino citizens to be repatriated back home,” he said. — N. M. Gonzales