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Filipinos in Iran, Iraq to be evacuated to a ‘secured place’ — Palace

/ 06:54 PM January 08, 2020

MANILA, Philippines—Filipino workers in Iran and Iraq will be evacuated to a “secured place” amid the increasing tension in the Middle East, Malacañang said Wednesday.

According to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, Philippine ships and frigate are on their way to the Middle Eastern countries to transfer overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) there and put them out of “harm’s way.”

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“The President has ordered the mandatory evacuation of the Filipinos in those areas to put them in safety out of harm’s way. That’s precisely why two Cabinet members were sent there to liaison with the host countries to prepare for the repatriation of our countrymen,” Panelo told reporters in an interview in Malacañang.

The Palace official said the government is eyeing Qatar among other countries in the Gulf Region to serve as temporary refuge of affected OFWs.

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An Alert Level 4 was earlier raised over Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. Mandatory repatriation is ordered under this alert level, which is usually issued when there is a large-scale conflict or a full-blown external attack.

However, Panelo said repatriating the OFWs there would be dangerous as they can be hit by bombs while on their way out of the area.

“Ang problema mo doon baka pag nagbabarilan na doon along the way [baka] mabaril ka. Mabomba ka. Mas lalong delikado. I-sesecure muna natin sila,” he said.

(The problem with repatriation is they can be hit along the way. They can be bombed. It’s more dangerous. We will secure them first.)

According to government data, there are an estimated 1,600 documented Filipinos in Iraq while there are around 1,000 in Iran.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered the military to prepare its air and naval assets for the possible repatriation of OFWs in the Middle East after the US launched an airstrike that killed Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Iraq.

He also sent Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, his former Special Envoy to the Middle East, immediately to establish coordination with the host countries and lay the groundwork for the evacuation in the Middle East.

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In addition, the Chief Executive also asked Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mamao to proceed to Iran and Iraq today to deliver the special messages of the President of the Philippines to the Iranian and Iraqi Governments on the safety of the Filipinos working in the aforesaid countries, specifically conveying his urgent desire that no Filipinos be harmed in the course of the ongoing conflicts.

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TAGS: Iran, Iraq, Malacañang, Middle East, OFWs, Qatar, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo, Saudi Arabia, Security, UAE, US
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