Balancing Act in Tripoli

When the third civil war in Libya erupted in April 2019, the default action was for us at Tripoli PE to make recommendations for the Department of Foreign Affairs to raise the alert level.

This would mean putting Libya under Alert Levels III or IV. Once we do that, travel restrictions would automatically be put in place and kababayan working in Libya who are in the Philippines would not be allowed to leave.

The fighting, however, was confined to the western part of Libya, particularly the approaches to Tripoli. There was no fighting in the eastern part where majority of our oil workers are located. The initial feedback we received from Manila was to put the entire country under Level III or voluntary repatriation and then IV or mandatory repatriation if the situation escalates.

As we were the ones on the ground, we needed to balance the need to bring to safety kababayan who were at risk due to the fighting while at the same time ensuring that kababayan who were not at risk would be able to not only continue working but also go home and return to their jobs.

We have been told about how many kababayan have lost their jobs or had a difficult time returning after getting stranded back home whenever alert levels were raised due to the outbreak of violence in Libya. But making sure Filipino nationals are safe is a job that we had to do.

What Tripoli PE did was to raise the alert level but only in Tripoli and other areas within a 100-kilometer radius of the capital where kababayan were at risk. We kept the rest of the country under Level II. This exempted more than 1,000 kababayan many of them from Benghazi and other parts of Eastern Libya from the travel restrictions that followed.

We also eventually issued conditional exemptions to those from Tripoli and surrounding areas when the advance of the Libyan National Army (LNA) got stalled outside the capital.

Issuing exemption certificates to kababayan added to our workload but it was one of the best decisions we at Tripoli PE made during the crisis as we were able to minimize the impact of the conflict on our kababayan who have to endure so many hardships just to be able to provide for their families back home.

New York, 8 May 2022

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