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Govt trying to locate missing Filipinos in Israel

THE government is exerting efforts «to locate» the two missing Filipinos in Israel whom the government assumed to be among those kidnapped by Hamas militants in early October, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said.

In a chance interview following his meeting with visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot, Manalo was asked about the possibility that there are Filipinos among the Hamas hostages.

«Yes, we're also looking into the condition of the hostages. We assume there are, and we'll continue to exert every effort to locate them,» Manalo said.

Pressed whether the Israeli government has confirmed to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that there were indeed abducted Filipinos, Manalo said, «Actually, we assume there are hostages because they are unaccounted for. They are not included among the casualties.»

The official said that the DFA is monitoring the situation not only in Gaza but also in Israel.

«As you know, there is alert level 4 in Gaza. The problem is the corridor is not yet open for them (Filipinos and other foreigners at the Rafah border crossing) to pass. But the minute that door is opened, we will have our assets available to take them out, probably to Egypt. We are using diplomatic efforts,» he said.

Bruins Slot discussed with Manalo the bilateral relations between the Netherlands and the Philippines and «exchanged views on other regional matters of mutual concern,» the DFA said in a statement.

Bruins Slot said she and Manalo also «spoke about the Israeli conflict and the need for humanitarian pauses and humanitarian corridor and to act in accordance with international law.» She noted that Manila and Amsterdam are important trading partners.

«We collaborate in many areas, including sustainable trade, innovative agriculture, water management, human rights and the fight against online sexual exploitation of children,» she said.

«We discussed on how we can further promote trade and investment by Dutch companies in the field of water management, agriculture, and circular economy,» Bruins Slot added.

The DFA said Bruins Slot's arrival marked the first time that a Dutch foreign minister has visited the Philippines in more than 30 years.