Published: June 09, 2019
MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Sunday lauded the resilience and courage of Filipino diplomats who continue to serve the country and their countrymen in hardship posts abroad.
“To borrow [the] title [of] Lenin’s masterwork, ‘What Is To Be Done?’ first, foremost and last is stay by our people and share their peril and fate,” Locsin said in one of several posts on Twitter.
The best of us are on it
“The best of us are doing that already,” Locsin said after an exchange of Twitter posts with Filipino diplomat Elmer Cato, the country’s charge d’affaires in Libya, which is in the midst of a civil war.
Cato reported via Twitter that around 1,000 Filipinos had declined the government’s offer to be repatriated despite the prolonged fighting in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
Locsin lauded the embassy’s efforts, saying he would “proudly” tell foreign diplomats that the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli would shelter all who sought refuge “regardless of nationality.”
Battle for airport
Tension heightened in Tripoli last week as Eastern Libyan forces conducted airstrikes on the military section of the only functioning airport in the city.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) force of Khalifa Haftar, which controls Eastern Libya, has tried to take the capital held by the internationally recognized government in a two-month offensive but has failed to breach defenses in southern suburbs.
Civilian air traffic from Tripoli’s Mitiga airport has continued despite the war.
The LNA late on Thursday attacked the military part of the airport, targeting a “Turkish plane,” the force said in a statement. No more information was immediately available.
The LNA reported a similar strike the previous night but air traffic was not affected.
The conflict is part of chaos that has continued in Libya since the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Haftar is allied to a parallel government in the east.
The LNA, supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, accuses Turkey of backing the Tripoli government and its forces.
War plus natural disasters
Aside from armed hostilities, the UN refugee agency reported that heavy rains had triggered severe flooding in southwestern Libya since late May, killing four people and forcing more than 2,500 to flee their homes.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement released on Friday that the rains began on May 28 in the town of Ghat, some 1,300 kilometers from Tripoli.
The statement said 30 people had been injured and the flooding had damaged main roads and flooded Ghat’s only hospital that served the town’s 20,000 inhabitants.
The UNHCR has sent a relief convoy, with tents, mattresses, blankets and other needed items, that is expected to arrive in Ghat later in the day.
A senior official from the Tripoli government voiced confidence on Friday that the United States would support them.
But US President Donald Trump in April sowed confusion when he spoke by telephone with Haftar — who is backed by US allies such as the United Arab Emirates — and praised his role in “fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources.”
The state department has been careful in its comments on the visit, which came as Haftar’s two-month campaign is stalled on the outskirts of Tripoli after more than 600 people were killed. —With reports from the wires