MIDEAST OFW EVACUATION DIFFICULT

Manila, March 27, 2003 -- The Philippine Air Force (PAF) admitted yesterday
it will have difficulty evacuating all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in
the Middle East should the Iraq war escalate.

"There would be difficulty (in evacuating Filipinos). We cannot use the two
C-130 planes for evacuating all of the OFWs," Lt. Gen. Nestor Santillan,
PAF commanding general, told reporters at a thanksgiving luncheon with the
press corps held at the PAF Officers' Club at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

He said that at the moment, the PAF only has two C-130 planes with a
seating capacity of 100 persons each.

The help which could be given by commercial airlines such as Philippine
Airlines (PAL) is more important, Santillan added.

He said the Arroyo government already entered into an agreement that PAL
would be used to evacuate the OFWs in Iraq's neighboring countries  such as
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait  but not within Iraq itself because of the war.

Only military planes will be used to enter Iraq for evacuation, but
Santillan did not explain how this will be done. "The C-130 planes will
only be used for extreme measures," he said.

Santillan said the PAF will only be involved in "humanitarian or peace
missions" such as evacuation of civilians from and deployment of doctors
and medical staff to war-torn areas.

He noted that the PAF is currently on standby, since only PAL planes will
be used for evacuation outside Iraq.

Santillan failed to confirm if the government has made arrangements with
other countries or other airlines to help in the evacuation of Filipinos in
the Middle East. He, however, said that he would be supportive of these
efforts if such help could be extended to the Philippines. (By Sandy
Araneta, Star)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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