PH concludes latest site inspection in Lebanon, Syria

MANILA -- The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday announced that the country's latest site inspection in Masnaa, Lebanon's border with Syria, was concluded on December 23, following the visit of personnel from the Philippine Embassy in Beirut.

"The primary reason for the site inspection trip is to keep improving our Post's operational readiness in times of emergencies like repatriation of our nationals," Director Geronimo Suliguin Jr., officer-in-charge for the DFA-Office of Public Diplomacy, said in a text message. "This is part of our embassy's continuing program in strengthening our Embassy's Contingency Plan and to further improve its delivery of Assistance-to-Nationals services."

According to the agency, the site inspection trip is also to familiarize the embassy personnel with the strategic areas in Lebanon and to establish contacts with local authorities in these areas.

Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita Catalla and foreign service officers were given a quick tour and an opportunity to observe the operations of the border immigration facilities. They were also briefed by the border management officers on the daily operations at the border.

Representatives of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration also participated in the site inspection.

Masnaa border in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon, serves as the primary transit point used by the Philippine Embassy in Beirut and the Philippine Embassy in Damascus in facilitating the repatriation of Filipinos returning from Syria to the Philippines.

It will be recalled that joint repatriation operations by the two Philippine Embassies during the period of 2012 to 2013 brought home almost 5,000 overseas Filipino workers at the height of the Syrian conflict.

The DFA said the embassy officials were informed that Masnaa border receives an estimated 5,000 visitors from Syria and processes the exit of some 2,000 to 3,000 visitors from Lebanon every day.

At present, Lebanon and Syria bear Crisis Alert Levels 1 and 4, respectively. In a separate text message, Suliguin said these remain in place until further notice.

Source: Philippine News Agency