Thousands of Filipinos working in the Middle East are at the verge of being evacuated by the Philippine government as tensions in the region rises following the killing of top Iranian commander General Soleimani.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelomade this known in Manila on Tuesday
About 2.3 million people from the Philippines are working in the Middle East as domestic helpers, construction workers, engineers, and nurses.
Duterte ordered the armed forces to prepare air and naval assets for the evacuation of Filipinos in Iraq, Iran, and nearby Arab countries, Panelo said.
While noting that he was deeply worried about the prospect of a “protracted war”, Duterte told reporters that he sent a special envoy to Tehran and Baghdad to get assurances that Filipinos would be provided safe passage in case of evacuation.
“We have so many Filipinos working mainly in the Middle East. I am nervous. Iran seems to be hell-bent on retaliation, which I think, will come,” Duterte said in a speech on Monday.
There are close to 7,000 Filipinos working and living in Iraq and more than 1,000 in Iran, according to government data.
Defense Secretary DelfinLorenzana, who heads a newly created committee to prepare the evacuation, said the government is readying aircraft to ferry Filipinos in Iraq and Iran who wish to come home or be evacuated to safer areas.
“We can send transportation to fetch them,” Lorenza said, adding that hiring a cruise ship was among the things the government was considering to safely evacuate those who would wish to be repatriated.
Iran is considering 13 scenarios to avenge Friday’s killing of QassemSoleimani by a U.S. drone attack in Iraq, a senior Tehran official said on Tuesday as the general’s body was brought to his hometown for burial.
Filipinos in the Middle East sent home 5.4 billion dollars in remittances from January to October 2019, accounting for a fifth of total remittances for that period.
This is making the region a major source of foreign exchange inflows which help drive growth in the consumption-led Philippine economy.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah advised Malaysians to defer nonessential travel to the region, “in particular areas where the security situation is critical”, and for citizens in the region to register with their nearest foreign mission.
Saifuddin said this t a news conference.
“The ministry advises all Malaysians residing, or currently traveling to the region to be more vigilant and take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and security,” Saifuddin said.