The Philippines’ Southeast Asian neighbors are offering assistance in repatriating Filipinos affected by the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict under an international approach in responding to the crisis, a foreign affairs official said on Friday.

“The President also directed the Department of Foreign Affairs to contact other countries and also through the embassies in Manila to provide critical assistance in looking for Filipinos who are unaccounted for, and to help the Philippines in getting them out of Gaza,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega said in a Palace press briefing.

“At the same time, ASEAN countries have also approached us for help, at the same time, they offered help. For example, Indonesia is offering to help Filipinos who want to leave the West Bank. While they have no presence in Gaza, obviously, but they have citizens in Gaza so they are asking our assistance. So, it’s an international approach.”

According to De Vega, Israel has to agree to a humanitarian corridor and also for Egypt to allow citizens to enter through its border in order for Filipinos to get out of Gaza.

Filipino officials, he said, are also talking with their friends from Egypt about such arrangement so that the Filipinos from Gaza who want to be repatriated could be brought there.

“And in the President’s words, what is critical now is Gaza and let’s keep exploring all possible exit options. You already know that he has met the Israeli ambassador who has promised that no civilians are being targeted,” De Vega said.

The administration of President Marcos is now exhausting all remedies available to start the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the Filipino community amid the ongoing conflict between the Israeli forces and the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

There are about 131 Filipinos in Gaza; some are Filipino women married to Palestinians living in the territory with their children and even grandchildren, practically of Arab ethnicity, said the foreign affairs official.  |PND