By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA — The Philippine government has raised the crisis alert level in Iraq to 4 or mandatory evacuation, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed Wednesday.
Iran has launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
“As a result of the government’s coordination meetings on the situation in the Middle East in the past few days, the Alert Level 4 in entire Iraq has been raised to Alert Level 4 calling for mandatory evacuation,” DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Menez told reporters.
Since the mandatory evacuation was raised by the Philippines, Filipinos who will be leaving Iraq will undergo the normal procedure of getting their exit papers, according to the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad.
“Dahil wala pa sa Iraq, ito ay galing sa atin, normal procedure po ‘yan, kakailanganin ‘yong visa at ticket (Since the announcement of evacuation did not come from Iraq, it was from us, this would be a normal procedure, you would still need a visa and a ticket),” said Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Jomar Sadie on Wednesday.
“Sino po ang mag-sisecure ng exit visa kung employed? Ito ay employer. Kung walang employer o biktima ng human trafficking, makipag-ugnayan po kayo sa amin (Who will secure the exit visa if employed? The employer. If you don’t have an employer or you’re a victim of human trafficking, contact us),” he added.
Sadie assured that the Philippine government would repatriate any Filipino who may be affected or displaced by the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, he advised Filipinos in the area to remain vigilant, exercise caution and maintain situational awareness.
“Ngayon kasi ang status natin, ang marching order sa amin ay mandatory repatriation (Now our status, our marching order is mandatory repatriation),” he said.
According to official count from the Embassy, there are around 1,190 documented and 450 undocumented Filipinos in Iraq.
Last Sunday, Sadie reported that “three rockets were fired towards the green zone” while some Filipino workers at the US Embassy in Iraq reported that “one rocket landed near the United Nations compound”.
The tensions in the region continue to escalate following the death of Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds military force, in a United States airstrike on January 3. (PNA)