Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said only 10 percent of the country’s 10,000 citizens living in Syria intend to leave despite mounting violence because of the lack of job prospects at home.
About 1,000 Filipino workers in Syria have taken up a government offer to spend $4,000 per person to bring them back, del Rosario told a briefing today in Manila. He said he talked with 25 Filipino community leaders during a trip to Damascus last week and “not a single one of them wanted to be repatriated. They choose to stay because of the economic opportunities offered there.”
Arab Spring revolts and heightened security threats in the Middle East may displace more workers and could have a “significant” dent on money Filipino workers send home, he said. Remittances account for about 10 percent of the Philippines’ $200 billion economy, and those from the Middle East rose 6.2 percent to $2.6 billion in the first 10 months of last year, according to central bank data.
About half of the country’s 4 million overseas workers are in the Middle East, with roughly 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said last February. Almost 500 Filipinos have been repatriated from Syria since the start of the political tension there in March, according to the Foreign Affairs department.
More than 5,000 people have died in the Syrian uprising, according to the United Nations.