MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Philippine embassy officials in Libya are going around hospitals in the nation's capital, Tripoli, as well as nearby cities to convince Filipinos to leave the country, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said Monday.
The DFA, however, said it will not force overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to leave if they do not want to.
It is still up to the Filipinos to decide if the want to leave Tripoli, the department said. If they decide to leave, the government will provide everything they need to bring them home.
The DFA on Monday raised Alert Level 4 in Libya, which means the mandatory evacuation and repatriation of Filipino nationals in the area at the Philippine government's expense.
"We are still convincing the 2,000-plus, especially the 1,600 who are still in Tripoli and in the suburbs," Hernandez said.
Philippine Ambassador to Libya Alejandrino Vicente told TV Patrol on Monday night that only 86 Filipinos have expressed their desire to leave Libya.
He said a majority of OFWs want to stay in the country because they fear that they won't have good-paying jobs when they return to the Philippines. "Nangingibabaw iyung economic reasons po. Sinasabi po nila, makikipagsapalaran po sila dahil walang katiyakan po ang trabaho."
Rebel fighters have swept into the heart of Tripoli and crowds took to the streets to celebrate what they saw as the end of Moammar Gaddafi's 4 decades of power, but a government fightback was reported as dawn broke on Monday.
Tanks emerged from Gaddafi's stronghold in the center of the Libyan capital and were shelling the area, Al Jazeera television reported.
Despite euphoria among rebels and their backers in Tripoli and elsewhere, a rebel spokesman, identified on Al Jazeera as Nasser, said government troops still controlled "about 15 to 20 percent of the city."
The Philippine government on Monday warned Filipinos in Libya to stay indoors as it arranged for a ship to get them out of the country, amid the final thrust by rebels into the capital.
DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said the government has the funds and the capacity to bring the Filipinos back home.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has allocated 400 seats on a chartered ship to take Filipinos from Tripoli to Alexandria, Egypt.
From Alexandria, a commercial flight will take the Filipinos back to the Philippines.
Wait and see first
The DFA, however, wants to see how the situation develops in Libya in the next 24 hours before implementing the forced evacuation OFWs, according to the department's acting secretary, Antonio Rodriguez.
"Wait and see tayo next 24 hours baka di na kailangan i-repatriate," he said. If rebel forces succeed, baka tapos na ang boxing."
"Baka naman kasi pag pina-uwi natin, babalik din sila kasi may mga contracts ang mga yan," Rodriguez added. "Malalaki rin ang sweldo ng mga health worker sa Libya."
Conejos, meanwhile, expressed confidence that all Filipinos still in Libya are accounted for and can be reached if the situation turns for the worse.
"We have contingency measures, we have coordinators... 1,600 filipinos are all accounted for," he said. "They are documented, the DFA is in touch with them."
He said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is ready to help the repatriated Pinoys. "DOLE has a return reintegration program. It is a P2-billion program."
He said the program includes soft loans for former OFWs to start their own business, as well as local employment opportunities and entrepreneurial programs.
Zero hour for Gaddafis
After a 6-month civil war, rebels have moved quickly into Tripoli, with a carefully orchestrated uprising launched on Saturday night to coincide with the advance of rebel troops on 3 fronts. Fighting broke out after the call to prayer from the minarets of the mosques.
Libyan rebels have captured 2 of Gaddafi's sons, but the whereabouts of leader himself were unknown.
Rebel National Transitional Council Coordinator Adel Dabbechi confirmed that Gaddafi's younger son Saif Al-Islam had been captured.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, which wants Saif along with his father on charges of crimes against humanity, confirmed he had been held and said he should be handed over for trial.
Gaddafi's eldest son Mohammed Al-Gaddafi had surrendered to rebel forces, Dabbechi told Reuters.
In a television interview, the younger Gaddafi said gunmen had surrounded his house, but he later told al-Jazeera in a phone call that he and his family were unharmed.
Only 5 months ago, Gaddafi's forces were set to crush the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the leader warning then that there would be "no mercy, no pity" for his opponents. His forces, he said, would hunt them down "district to district, street to street, house to house, room to room."
The United Nations then acted quickly, clearing the way for creation of a no-fly zone that NATO, with a campaign of bombing, used ultimately to help drive back Gaddafi's forces.
"It's over. Gaddafi's finished," said Saad Djebbar, former legal adviser to the Libyan government.
In Benghazi in the east, thousands gathered in a city-center square waving red, black and green opposition flags and trampling on pictures of Gaddafi as news filtered through of rebel advances into Tripoli.
Mohammed Derah, a Libyan activist in Tripoli, told Al Jazeera: "This is another day, a new page in Libya's history. We are witnessing a new dawn and a new history of freedom. The regime is finished."
"We are living historic moments, moments that we haven't witnessed since we were born, since we came out of our mothers' wombs," said We'am Mohanna.
Celebratory gunfire and explosions rang out over the city and cars blaring their horns crowded onto the streets. Overhead, red tracer bullets darted into a black sky.
"It does look like it is coming to an end," said Anthony Skinner, Middle East analyst, Maplecroft. "But there are still plenty of questions. The most important is exactly what Gaddafi does now. Does he flee or can he fight?"
"In the slightly longer term, what happens next? We know there have been some serious divisions between the rebel movement and we don't know yet if they will be able to form a cohesive front to run the country."
Gaddafi, in his second audio broadcast in 24 hours, dismissed the rebels as "rats."
"I am giving the order to open the weapons stockpiles," Gaddafi said. "I call on all Libyans to join this fight. Those who are afraid, give your weapons to your mothers or sisters.
"Go out, I am with you until the end. I am in Tripoli. We will ... win."A Libyan government official told Reuters that 376 people on both sides of the conflict were killed in fighting overnight on Saturday in Tripoli, with about 1,000 others wounded.