Special Envoy to the Middle East and concurrent Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu stated that the Filipinos in the neighboring countries of Iraq should be repatriated following US President Donald Trump’s statement that Iran appears to be standing.
At a press conference held at Ninoy Aquino International Airport prior to his flight to Doha, Qatar, Cimatu emphasized that the turn of events is still uncertain and that time is critical to the evacuation of the Filipinos in the Middle East.
On Tuesday, Iran launched “more than a hundred” ballistic missiles at two airbases in Iraq, where the US and coalition forces are stationed, according to the Pentagon. Trump, however, said that no US soldiers were injured in the attack and that Iran seems to be standing still.
The incident occurred after Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed revenge for the death of Iran’s top military officer, Qasem Soleimani, following a US airstrike on 3 January in Bagdad.
Cimatu stated that US bases in other Middle Eastern countries could be attacked. There is, therefore, no space for complacency.
The Philippine government must prepare different evacuation plans for each country to address the various potential problems that could be encountered, he added.
A total of 1,600 OFWs have already expressed their intention to be repatriated in the midst of the heightened security situation in the Middle East, Cimatu said.
He also appealed to the families of undocumented Filipinos in the Middle East to communicate with the government of the Philippines so that they could be easily identified.
The Philippine Embassy in Iraq has raised Alert Level 4, requiring compulsory repatriation.
Comfortable transit points will be established in Qatar and Dubai, according to Cimatu, for the evacuation of OFWs from that country.
On the other hand, Filipinos in Iran and Lebanon are no longer subject to mandatory repatriation, according to Labor Secretary Bello, but those who wish to return to the Philippines in the middle of the conflict will still be supported accordingly.