By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
MANILA — Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Wednesday called on Filipinos residing and working in Baghdad to closely coordinate with the Philippine Embassy in Iraq to ensure their security and safety.
“We would like to inform that a mandatory evacuation has been imposed for all Filipinos living, working, and staying in Iraq. This comes after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has raised the Alert Level to Level 4 due to security threats as a result of the rising tensions in the Middle East,” Andanar said in a statement. “We are urging everyone to coordinate with the Philippine Embassy in Iraq for their subsequent repatriation.”
The Philippine Embassy in Iraq announced earlier Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered all Filipinos living and working in Iraq to return to the Philippines.
Some 4,000 Filipinos are living and working in Iraq, DFA data showed.
The order to repatriate Filipinos in Iraq came after the highest threat alert was raised in Baghdad amid the escalating tensions between the US and Iraq.
Alert Level 4, which calls for mandatory repatriation and forced evacuation, is issued “when there is a large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external account,” according to the DFA’s website.
Iran’s top military commander, Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated in a US airstrike conducted in Baghdad, Iraq last week, a move that prompted Iran to pledge retaliation against the US.
Andanar said the Duterte government would continue monitoring the situation of the Filipino residents and workers in Iraq.
“As there is still no advisory for Filipinos staying in neighboring countries in the Middle East, we will continue to monitor and coordinate with the DFA for the recommended course of action, should there be any,” he said. “The Duterte administration will continue to ensure the protection and safety of all of our overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East from this security crisis.”
In a press conference held earlier Wednesday, Budget Assistant Secretary Rolando Toledo said about PHP1.8 billion in government funds can be tapped for the repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East.
Toledo said PHP1.29 billion of the total PHP1.8 billion fund allocated for the OFWs’ repatriation would be taken from the DFA allocation.
The other PHP100 million will come from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration while the remaining PHP500 million is a “free fund,” he said. (PNA)