HOME. A representative of the foreign affairs department’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs welcomes Filipino nationals from Ukraine at the NAIA Terminal 3 on Feb. 18, 2022. The department launched the free repatriation because of fears that Russia would invade Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of DFA/Hya Bernardo)

MANILA – Some 141 Filipinos are still in war-torn Ukraine as intense fighting in the country rages seven days since Russia's invasion, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

Of this number, 45 are in the capital Kyiv, 55 are near the Hungarian border, and the others are spread across Ukraine. At least 87 seafarers are also onboard ships docked near the country.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said many Filipinos are still hesitant to go home, some of whom refused to separate from their Ukrainian family while some opted to stay with their employers.

But she said the Philippines would continue monitoring them to ensure their safety and extend aid, including evacuation support, when requested.

"We're monitoring because we want to know how they are. The situation is fluid so we don't know if okay ngayon baka bukas magputukan na sa kanila (if by tomorrow there would be shelling in their locations)," she said in a DZMM interview.

Since Russia launched a massive military assault against Ukraine on February 24, around 40 Filipinos have safely crossed the Polish border. At least 27 Filipinos have also sought refuge in Moldova, nine in Austria and four in Romania.

The DFA said 21 of the 27 in Moldova are all crewmembers of the MV S-Breeze, who were extracted by Philippine Honorary Consul Victor Gaina from February 27 to March 1.

Gaina brought a bus to Odessa to evacuate the Filipino seafarers in Chornomosk last Sunday but only eight joined him back to the Moldovan capital Chisinau.

The 13 seafarers, including the master, chose to stay fearing liability and legal action from the shipowner for abandonment of the vessel but eventually decided to get repatriated the following day.

The DFA said Gaina had to scramble for transportation as there was reported heavier fighting in the area and no transport wanted to risk.

"Last night, at around 2300H (Philippine standard time), Honorary Consul Gaina reported the successful extraction of the remaining 13 Filipino seafarers," it said.

The M/V S-Breeze, a bulk carrier, has been on drydock for repairs at the Ilyichevsk Ship Yard in Port of Odessa, Ukraine since January 27, 2022.

The Philippine Embassy in Budapest and the Philippine Consulate in Chisinau will make arrangements to repatriate them the soonest, added the DFA.

Meanwhile, 10 more are expected to evacuate from Lviv to Poland.

As of March 2, a total of 19 Filipinos have been repatriated from Ukraine, 13 of whom arrived last night from Poland via an Emirates Airlines flight.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured assistance to the 13 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who arrived from Ukraine.

“We shall provide financial and livelihood assistance to returned OFWs. Welcome home, compatriots,” OWWA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said in a Twitter post.

Earlier, Cacdac said among the forms of assistance to be provided is a livelihood package for the workers to start a small business in the country.

“The DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs)-DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment)-OWWA assisted the arrival of 13 returned Filipinos from Ukraine last night. Sec. (Silvestre) Bello and Team DOLE-OWWA support the effort of SFA (Secretary of Foreign Affairs) @teddyboylocsin and Team @DFAPHL,” he added. (with report from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)