Philippines braces for possible repatriation of workers in Middle East amid tensions


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the armed forces to prepare for a possible evacuation of Filipino workers in the Middle East amid the growing regional tension following the assassination of Iran’s top commander by the United States.

Duterte told reporters he sent a special envoy to Tehran and Baghdad to get assurances that Filipinos would be provided safe passage in case of evacuation, saying he was deeply worried about the prospect of a “protracted war”.

“We have so many Filipinos working mainly in the Middle East. I am nervous. Iran seems to be hell-bent on a retaliation, which I think will come,” Duterte said in a speech on Monday.

There are an estimated 2.3 million OFW’s in the Middle East who works as domestic helpers, construction workers, engineers, nurses and the various roles in the hospitality industry.

The Philippine armed forces have been ordered to prepare air and naval assets for the evacuation of Filipinos in Iraq, Iran and nearby Arab countries, his spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday, January 07.

Government data show that there are close to 7,000 Filipinos working and living in Iraq and more than 1,000 in Iran.

Defence  Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who heads a newly created committee to prepare the evacuation, said the government is readying aircraft to ferry Filipinos in Iraq and Iran who wish to come home or be evacuated to safer areas.

“We can send transportation to fetch them,” Lorenza told reporters, adding that hiring a cruise ship was among the things the government was considering to safely evacuate those who would wish to be repatriated.

Iran is considering 13 scenarios to avenge Friday’s killing of Qassem Soleimani by a US drone attack in Iraq, a senior Tehran official said on Tuesday as the general’s body was brought to his hometown for burial.

Filipinos in the Middle East sent home US$5.4 billion in remittances in January to October last year, accounting for a fifth of total remittances for that period, making the region a major source of foreign exchange inflows which help drive growth in the consumption-led Philippine economy. (Source: CNA)