DFA ready to repatriate Filipinos if conflict in Middle East worsens

By CNN Philippines Staff

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will repatriate Filipinos working in the Middle East who are willing to return home in case conflict in the region further escalates.

“We will get out everyone who wants to get out and return to poverty in the Philippines to stare at their starving loved ones while b*********** talk about the most dynamic economy in Southeast Asia. Or we will be there with them,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. said Sunday on Twitter.

In another tweet, Locsin indicated that the Foreign Affairs department would not forcibly evacuate or repatriate Filipino workers in the Middle East.

He also assured that President Rodrigo Duterte is ready to deal with a crisis in the Middle East.

Locsin made these statements as tensions between the United States and Iran escalated after Washington launched an airstrike that killed Tehran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense (DND) said members of the country’s security forces were called by President Duterte Sunday to discuss ways to keep Filipinos safe in the Middle East, especially in the wake of heightened tensions between the US and Iran.

“The President has tasked the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to prepare its air and naval assets to evacuate and bring home our countrymen if and when open hostilities erupt in the Middle East that may endanger their lives.” said DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a statement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the United States committed a “grave mistake” in killing Soleimani and that Americans “will face the consequences of this criminal act not only today, but also in the coming years.”

But US President Donald Trump said on Twitter that Washington has targeted 52 Iranian sites for attacks in case Tehran strikes any American or American asset.

There are 1,006 registered Filipinos in Iran, who are mostly permanent residents with their family members, according to the DFA. It added there are also 50 documented Filipino workers in the country.

The DFA had warned Filipinos against going to Iraq until further notice and told Filipinos who were already in the country to coordinate with the Philippine embassy and their employers in the event there is a need for mandatory evacuation.

The crisis alert level for all areas in Iraq is currently in Alert Level 3 or voluntary repatriation, except in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region which is still under Level 1 or the precautionary phase. There is also an existing ban on deployment of new workers and household workers to Iraq.

There are currently 1,190 documented and 450 undocumented Filipinos in Iraq, according to DFA which cited the Embassy’s latest figures. More than half are in the Kurdistan region while 847 are in the Baghdad area. Most of those in Baghdad are working with US and other foreign facilities, while others are in regular commercial establishments, particularly in Erbil.

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