Duterte to side with US if Filipinos are harmed in Middle East ruckus
MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte will side with the United States if Filipinos in the Middle East were “harmed” due to the escalating tension between the country’s military ally and Iran, Malacañang said Tuesday.
“Hindi tayo magiging neutral. (We will not be neutral.) The President was very specific in saying last night that if the Filipinos are harmed, he will side with the Americans,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“If they will harm the Filipinos, then the President will not sit down idly and watch,” he added.
Panelo said Duterte is wary that some Iranians may harm Filipinos working there as the Philippines has been known as a close military ally of the U.S.
“We’re supposedly allied with the Americans, and ‘yung enemies (Iranians) might also attack not only the Americans but also the allies of the Americans,” he explained.
Asked if it was a change of foreign policy, the Palace official said: “Hindi naman. Ang sinasabi lang ni Presidente huwag niyong idamay ang aking mga kababayan diyan.” (Not really. What the President is saying is that they should not involve our countrymen in the conflict there.)
The Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S., which states that both countries would assist each other when either of them is attacked by a foreign force.
The President earlier ordered the military to prepare its air and naval assets for the possible repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East after the U.S. launched an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani.
Duterte also created a special working committee to draw up plans and measures for the evacuation of Filipino workers in the Middle East should the rising tension between the U.S. and Iran escalates into a war.
Based on the latest Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, about 1.26 million OFWs in 2018 are in the Middle East or West Asia, which include Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
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