July 20, 2022

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115 Filipinos in crisis-hit Sri Lanka want to come home

AT LEAST 115 Filipinos in Sri Lanka, where the people are rioting amid a crippling political and economic crisis, are seeking to come home, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday.

There are about 700 Filipinos in the South Asian country that is home to more than 20 million people, DFA Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega told a televised news briefing.

Sri Lanka has been experiencing power blackouts, spiraling prices, fuel shortages and collapsing hard currency reserves in signs of how vulnerable its economy is.

The country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout, and has borrowed from India and other Asian nations to make ends meet this year.

Mr. De Vega said Manila has been struggling to arrange repatriation flights due to Sri Lanka’s administrative requirements, including landing rights approval.

“But there are commercial flights. That’s one way. We are thinking of funding plane tickets for those who want to go home,” he said. “The 100 Filipinos, hopefully within next week, the next two weeks, will already start to go home. That’s our goal.”

Mr. De Vega said returning Filipinos from Sri Lanka would get financial aid.

He said the government might also help the more than 500 Filipinos who want to stay in Sri Lanka. But bringing money to Sri Lanka could be a challenge due to regulations it has imposed to tame inflation.

Sri Lanka’s former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned last week after being under fire in recent months for mishandling the South Asian country’s economy, which is now unable to pay for imports of essential goods due to its ballooning external debt. — Norman P. Aquino and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza