DFA Chief Flies to Tokyo, Sends Team to Bahrain for Filipinos' Safety

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario quietly flew to Tokyo on Friday to lead Philippine efforts to rescue and relocate Filipinos in the quake- and tsunami-ravaged parts of northeastern Japan.

He landed at Narita International Airport at 12:50 p.m. and was welcomed by Ambassador Manuel Lopez, according to Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Eduardo Malaya.

Del Rosario will lead a “compact” DFA team composed of Foreign Undersecretaries Rafael Seguis and Jose Brillantes and Asian and Pacific Affairs Executive Director Meynard Montealegre.

The DFA said the foreign secretary met with officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy “to assess the situation on the ground and revalidate the contingency plan in connection with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.”

Malaya said Del Rosario had wanted to keep the trip “under wraps” until he was well on his way.

“Perhaps he did not want certain people to be worried about his safety, particularly Mrs. Del Rosario and his personal physician,” Malaya said.

Del Rosario made a similar surprise trip to Libya and Tunisia at the height of the Libyan crisis last month.

No fresh info

The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo said at least 48 Filipinos in Japan had not been heard from since the quake and tsunami hit on March 11.

But the DFA said it still had no official listing of missing Filipinos in the quake- and tsunami-ravaged areas. Neither could it present a fresh estimate of all Filipinos affected by the disaster, only the number of Filipinos in “prefectures” (the Japanese equivalent of provinces).

No Filipino death or injury as a result of the quake and tsunami has been confirmed.

The DFA said the list of names updated periodically on the embassy website was just a “people-finder” roll, meaning names provided by “concerned individuals and organizations through e-mail, the people-finder online, and help lines put in place by the DFA.”

As of late Thursday night, 48 names were on the list, most of which had addresses, and a few with contact numbers.

Notably, many of the names had addresses in areas hardest hit by the quake and tsunami: 17 in Miyagi prefecture (two in Sendai city), 9 from Fukushima prefecture, 8 from Iwate prefecture, one from Aomori prefecture, and 3 from Ibaraki prefecture. There were also 3 from Tokyo.

Call or e-mail

In a note, the embassy said: “May we request the following individuals to contact the embassy as soon as possible. May we also request those who may have information on these individuals to let the embassy know of their situation.”

The embassy’s 24-hour hotline numbers in Japan are (03)5562-1570, (03)5562-1577 and (03)5562-1590. The e-mail address is [email protected]

The embassy also listed on its website the names of 101 Filipinos its teams had rescued: There were 43 from Fukushima and Sendai, nine from the Nihommatsu Interchange, nine from Fukushima West Interchange, 25 from Fukushima Kencho and 15 from Koriyama.

These are the Filipinos collected from the disaster areas and taken to Tokyo by the embassy teams on board buses.

Seguis earlier said there were some 5,000 Filipinos living in the four prefectures struck hardest by the calamity—1,309 in Miyagi, 2,366 in Fukushima, 906 in Iwate and 551 in Aomori.

But Malaya said the DFA had no record of the number of Filipinos living in specific cities within these prefectures, let alone smaller locations such as the immediate vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear plants.

2 teams deployed

Secretary Del Rosario dispatched two teams on Friday to help embassy personnel assisting Filipinos in Japan and Bahrain, two countries facing two different types of crisis.

The first team, composed of Brillantes and Montealegre, flew to Japan to help assess the situation on the ground and to validate and make efficient contingency plans.

A second team, composed of Ricardo Endaya and Kristine Bautista, executive director and principal assistant, respectively, of the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA), flew to Bahrain with the same purpose.

“The teams will assist the embassies in intensifying the existing efforts in place to ensure the safety and serve the needs of the Filipinos there,” the DFA said in a statement.

It said embassy officers in Tokyo, as well as consulates in Osaka, Sapporo, Morioka, Nagoya and Naha, continued to reach out to Filipino community members and respond to requests for assistance or information 24/7.

In phone conversations with Del Rosario, Ambassador Manuel Lopez said he and his staff were “fully committed to remain [in Tokyo] to serve the needs of Filipinos in Japan.”

Hotlines

In Manila, the DFA has activated a Crisis Management Center for families who have relatives in Japan. The hotline numbers at the center are 834-4646 and 834-4580.

Requests for information may also be sent through e-mail address [email protected]

In Japan, Filipinos may contact the following embassy numbers in cases of emergency: (03)5562-1573, (03)5562-1574, (03)5562-1570, (03)5562-1590.

The consulates’ hotlines are: (06) 6910-7881 in Osaka, (011) 614-8090 in Sapporo, and (019) 629-9139 in Morioka.

The DFA said the Philippine Embassy in Bahrain was similarly operating 24/7 to address the concerns of Filipinos there. “Embassy officers and staff have disseminated their mobile numbers to [Filipinos] for immediate information and coordination,” the DFA said.

The hotline numbers at the Philippine Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, are: (973) 17721234, (973) 17740951 and (973) 17721908.

Source: Inquirer

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