By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

OUT OF DANGER. One of the 40 Filipinos who crossed Rafah bordering Egypt brought his Palestinian wife out of Gaza with him, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs Wednesday (Nov. 8, 2023). They are expected to fly to the Philippines by Saturday or Sunday. (Photo courtesy of PCO)

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday thanked the governments of Qatar, Egypt and Israel after 40 Filipinos and one Palestinian spouse were able to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.

This is the first batch of Filipinos who crossed the border through Philippine government-led facilitation with Israel and Egypt.

Two other Filipino medical workers left the besieged enclave last week when Qatar brokered the limited evacuation of international aid workers and wounded Palestinians.

“Very grateful that finally, an initial group of 40 Filipinos have safely exited Gaza and crossed to Egypt for eventual repatriation,” DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo said on X, formerly Twitter.

“I thank our partners, especially the governments Israel and Egypt for their help, and commend the efforts of our embassies in Israel, Egypt, and Jordan,” he added.

In a separate call with Qatar Ambassador to the Philippines Ahmed Saad Al-Homidi, Manalo conveyed that Manila recognizes Doha’s role in the opening of the border crossing.

“We acknowledge and deeply appreciate Qatar’s crucial mediation efforts in the opening of the Rafah border crossing, allowing foreign nationals, including Filipinos, to exit Gaza,” he said.

“The Philippines and Qatar are united in our goal of a lasting peace in the region,” he added.

There is no information as of yet whether another batch of Filipino evacuees will exit the Gaza Strip soon.

A total of 46 were earlier given permission to cross the border but only 40 decided to leave.

“The 40 are happy that the ordeal is over. They may be here as soon as Friday or Saturday,” DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega told the Philippine News Agency.

“[W]e are telling those left, next time we will get the call for the next batch and your names are there, please cross,” he added.

There are still 95 Filipinos left in the Gaza Strip, 19 of whom are “determined to remain there,” De Vega earlier said. (PNA)