Philippines steps up repatriations from Syria

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has flown to Syria to speed up the repatriation of more than 1,000 Filipino workers trying to escape the increasing violence there.

Some of the obstacles the government faced until recently was having to pay refunds to Syrian employers for unfinished contracts and fees levied by the Syrian government.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Tuesday that the Philippine government has now obtained waivers from employers.

Del Rosario said in a statement Tuesday that President Benigno Aquino III wants to ensure Filipinos' safety and repatriate as many of them as possible. Del Rosario left for Syria late Monday.

More than 2,100 were repatriated since last March. Hernandez said a rapid response team from the embassy in Damascus is helping extract Filipinos from conflict areas.