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421-strong contingent sent to fetch OFWs in Middle East

The Philippine Navy (PN) deployed Tuesday a 421-strong contingent to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to assist in the repatriation of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East as tension remains imminent between Iran and the United States.

President Duterte oversaw the deployment of the Naval Task Group 82 led by Captain Edward Ike de Sagon at Pier 13.

He was accompanied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Lieutenant General Felimon Santos Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff; and Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, Navy flag officer in command.

Duterte, in his message to the contingent, said the lives of the Filipinos in the Middle East amid the tension is of utmost importance, hence, the repatriation mission.

“I ask with a prayer that you carry out this mission successfully,” Duterte said.

“I hope that this mission will succeed. Do not worry, I will be with you. If need be, punta rin ako kung magkapahirapan,” he added.

The task group, composed of sailors and marines, boarded BRP Davao del Sur (LD602), one of the largest sea vessels of the Navy, and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS16), which has the modern capability to provide the needed security for the team.

According to Empedrad, the contingent is expected to reach Jeddah in 25 days, or on February 8, with a lay over in Sri Lanka for refueling and replenishment.

“The deployment of NTG 82 is in support to the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines) Joint Task Force mission in the Middle East and in line with the inter-agency undertaking ‘Oplan Pagbabalik,'” he said.

Duterte has ordered the enforcement of Oplan Pagbabalik to save lives and ensure the safety of the OFWs in Iran, Iraq, and other areas in the Middle East through repatriation. (Martin Sadongdong)