Philippine government ready to repatriate Filipinos in the Middle East amid heightened US-Iran tensions

January 6, 2020 - 2:22 PM
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Pakistani Shi'ite Muslims carry a sign reading in Urdu "Allah is great - America is great Evil" to protest against the death of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a airstrike near Baghdad, as they march on a road leading towards the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan January 5, 2020. (Reuters/Akhtar Soomro)

Following the hostilities between Iran and the United States, local social media talked about the consequences to Filipino migrants who live and work there.

The Department of National Defense announced that troops are ready to repatriate Filipino workers in Middle East should the tension between the two countries escalate.

Department of National Defense spokesperson Arsenio R. Andolong shared on Facebook the preparations President Rodrigo Duterte ordered of them.

“The President has tasked the AFP to prepare its air and naval assets to evacuate and bring home our countrymen if and when open hostilities erupt in the Middle East that may endanger their lives,” Andolong said on January 6.

STATEMENT OF THE DND ON THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST President Rodrigo Roa Duterte called the SND, CSAFP, Chief…

Posted by Department of National Defense – Philippines on Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Armed Forces of the Philippines likewise stated that Duterte already gave them “instructions” and they’re just waiting for the date and time to execute it.

The conflict between Iran and the US heightened when an airstrike ordered by US President Donald Trump killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a powerful leader and head of Iran’s paramilitary forces, last week.

Topics on World War III, Iran and Trump trended on Twitter immediately after. The posts were anything between memes of getting drafted and call-outs on the insensitivity to the possible casualties should an actual war occur.

While the situation has yet to affect woke people on social media, there are Filipinos who commented their concerns on the future livelihood of migrant workers in the Middle East if they would be forced to return here.

Screenshots by Interaksyon

The possibility of another world war, meanwhile, was dismissed by some Reddit users.

Screenshots by Interaksyon

 

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are currently 1,600 registered Filipinos in Iran and 50 more who are documented Filipino workers. Meanwhile, a report stated that there are over 3,000 Filipino workers in Iraq.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. expressed on Twitter that the government may even enforce evacuation to Filipinos if needed.

“We always do better each time except veteran OFWs who ignored previous evacuations grow in greater and greater numbers arguing impeccably,” Locsin said.

In an interview, he also said their teams in the Middle East are ready for emergencies.

“Let me tell you, our teams in the Middle East, foreign affairs, embassies, consulates, we are ready to help you when the emergency happens. We’ll get you out or we will be there with you to make sure that the same risks you run, we will run as well,” Locsin said.

The Trump-order strike

According to Vox, relations between US and Iran soured since the Trump withdrew the country from the 2015 nuclear agreement, which restricts Iran’s nuclear program to prevent sanctions, in May 2018.

On the night of January 2, Trump ordered an airstrike to kill Soleimani, according to a statement issued by the US Department of Defense. Among those killed include another high-profile official Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, according to international media.

As if this was not enough, Trump further provoked Iran on Twitter:

“We have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, will be hit very fast and very hard.”

Last January 5, the military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told CNN that Iran will directly retaliate against the US military.

“It was America that has started the war. Therefore, they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions,” Iran Maj. Gen. Hossein Dehghan said.

“The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted. Afterward they should not seek a new cycle,” he added.