overseas Filipinos

Filipinos in Gaza: Food is sufficient but access to water ‘increasingly difficult’

Bea Cupin

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Filipinos in Gaza: Food is sufficient but access to water ‘increasingly difficult’

STRIKE. Smoke rises during Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza City, on October 29, 2023.

Yasser Qudih/Reuters

The Philippine embassy in Jordan has reestablished contact with over two-thirds of the Filipino nationals still stuck in Gaza, after Israeli forces cut off telecommunications

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has regained contact with at least 87 Filipino nationals still inside the Gaza Strip on the weekend after internet and cellular lines were cut off ahead of Israel’s intensified assault on the Palestinian territory.

In a text message on Monday, October 30, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega, quoting the Philippines’ Ambassador to Jordan Fred Santos, said the embassy had been able to contact at least 87 Filipinos, including 57 at the Rafah crossing, or the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. At least 49 Filipino nationals living in Gaza have yet to be reached, added De Vega.

“We lost contact with them last Friday due to the telecommunications blackout, but yesterday, starting at 4 am, our embassy in Amman was able to reach some of them,” said the DFA undersecretary, who handles workers’ affairs.

Santos, who also has jurisdiction over the State of Palestine, said that while the food supply for Filipinos still stuck in Gaza is “sufficient…access to water is becoming increasingly difficult.”

International organizations such as Oxfam have raised alarm over the lack of food, water, and other essentials for people still trapped in Gaza.

In an October 25 post, Oxfam, in their analysis of United Nations data, figured that only 2% of food that would have normally been delivered to Gaza has been able to enter the Palestinian territory since Israel’s siege began. Before a full blockade was imposed on the tiny Palestinian territory, Oxfam noted that more than 104 trucks would enter Gaza daily.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that up to 500 trucks would enter Gaza on a daily basis before violence erupted on October 7.

In contrast, less than the daily average has been able to enter through the Rafah crossing thus far, weeks after the war first broke out. Lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation leaves the already vulnerable population even more prone to disease.

Israel has also refused the entry of fuel into Gaza, fearing this would be used by Hamas in their attacks.

There are 136 Filipino nationals from different generations – Filipinos married to Palestinians and their Filipino-Palestinian children and grandchildren – who were still stuck in Gaza following an October 7 attack by the Gaza-based militant group Hamas on Israel. That surprise attack led to a retaliation that has brought the long-besieged Gaza to its knees.

The United Nations estimates that over 1,400 Israelis have died from the conflict, while over 9,000 Palestinians – an overwhelming majority of them civilians, including women and children – have been killed as a result of Israel’s assault.

Philippine vote on Gaza

None of Gaza’s 2.2 million or so residents have been able to leave the thin strip of land since the siege – which Israel says is an act of self-defense – started.

Thousands of foreign nationals, including the 136 Filipinos, have been unable to leave despite calls for a humanitarian corridor and a United Nations resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” between Israel and the militant Hamas, which is believed to be headquartered in Gaza.

The same UN resolution called for “continuous, sufficient and unhindered” supply of essentials and services for the civilians still trapped in Gaza.

The Philippines abstained from voting on the Jordan-initiated resolution over the failure of a Canada-proposed amendment to make explicit mention of Hamas’ surprise attack on October 7.

“We had wished to have had a reference at least to that terrorist attack in the resolution…. Unfortunately, it was voted on, and did not pass. We have felt that it was very important to at least recognize the fact that these were terrorist attacks and that Filipino nationals were killed in that attack,” said DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo in a press conference alongside Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot. The Netherlands also abstained from the resolution.

Two more Filipinos in Israel have been missing, and they are presumed to be among the hundreds that Hamas hostaged during the October 7 attack. Manalo told reporters in a side interview that the Philippines is “working” on their possible release. At least four Filipinos have been confirmed killed as a result of the October 7 Hamas attack.

Practically the entire world, including the Philippines, have called for the opening of a humanitarian corridor that would allow foreign nationals to exit Gaza. A resolution to the plea has yet to be made. The Philippines embassy in Cairo has been prepared for weeks to repatriate Filipino nationals who want to come back home. Philippine negotiations, however, do not cover Palestinians who are married to Filipino nationals.

Gaza is a tiny strip of land that is administered by Hamas but is practically controlled by Israel, which mans its borders. Since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, Israel has imposed a land, air, and sea blockade on Gaza, which means it is Israel that decides on what or who can enter and leave the Gaza Strip. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.