Gov't will spend for compassionate visit of freed OFW's wife

By Ferdinand Patinio

November 25, 2023, 11:40 am

<p>Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega. (File photo)

MANILA – The government is ready to provide assistance to the wife of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Gelienor "Jimmy" Pacheco if she chooses to visit Israel.

Pacheco and 23 other hostages (13 Israelis and 10 Thais) were released by the Hamas on Friday after being held hostage since Oct. 7.

In exchange, 39 Palestinians were freed from Israeli prisons.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said they will shoulder the travel expenses of Pacheco's wife.

“If the wife wants to visit, she doesn't need a visa... we can pay for it, if she wants a compassionate visit,” De Vega said at the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.

The DFA official said Pacheco, a 33-year-old caregiver, is still in a hospital for medical tests.

Pacheco hails from Ilocos Norte and has been working in Israel for the past five years.

De Vega added that it is up to Pacheco if he wants to remain in Israel or go back to the Philippines to be with his wife and three children.

“It's up to him because he's based there. He has a job... maybe it’s his decision to stay there,” he said.

In a statement posted on X, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. lauded Philippine officials and thanked the State of Qatar for their "invaluable assistance" in securing Pacheco's freedom.

He likewise assured the government is sparing no effort to locate and secure another missing OFW, Noralyn Babadilla.

Filipino seafarers

De Vega also reported that the government is already working on the release of 17 Filipino seafarers that were held hostage by the Houthi group in Yemen. 

“As we have been indicating, we’re exercising all efforts to effectuate the release of the 17 kababayans (countrymen) who are still being held hostage by the Houthi group in Yemen. We’re using diplomatic representations with various countries,” De Vega said.

“There is no issue of paying ransom -- this is a political gesture that they made. It’s not the first time they’ve done it. In previous occasions, our seamen have always eventually been released so we’re confident about this. It’s only a matter of time,” he added.

The Filipino seafarers and other crew members were taken hostage by Yemeni Houthi rebels in the Red Sea on Nov. 19.

Repatriation assistance

Meanwhile, close to 350 repatriated OFWs from war-torn host countries have received cash assistance worth PHP125,000 from various government agencies, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said.

DMW Officer-in-Charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said the 343 OFWs came from Israel and Lebanon, and Gaza City.

DMW, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) pooled the financial aid, Cacdac said during the same forum.

TESDA distributed livelihood assistance or training vouchers for any course they would like to pursue, while the Department of Health provided medical assistance upon arrival.

The DMW likewise partnered with the Department of Labor and Employment for job facilitation.

The 10th batch of OFWs to be repatriated from Israel will arrive next week, Cacdac added. (PNA)