Cimatu to establish base in Qatar for immediate evacuation of Filipinos in Iraq
Marje Pelayo • January 7, 2020 • 373
MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu is setting up plans for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East in response to the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The President has ordered Cimatu to oversee the situations in the Middle East amid the ongoing conflict between the United States and Iran following the killing of Iran’s top military commander Qasem Soleimani.
“I will do my best to do another mission for our country,” Cimatu assured.
Cimatu served as Special Envoy to the Middle East during the Iraq war in 2003.
He said he will immediately fly to the Middle East once his documents are settled.
He plans to stay in Qatar where he can lay the plans for the repatriation of OFWs in Iraq.
“I plan to go to Qatar, establish our base there and from there we’ll see kung would be able to go inside Iraq,” he said.
Cimatu will recommend raising Alert Level 4 in Iraq to pave way for forced or mandatory evacuation.
Iraq hosts a number of US Military bases thus it is highly susceptible to attack by Iranian forces.
“We have to move out immediately the Filipinos out of Iraq,” Cimatu said.
“Because I believe that this could be the target, initially the US facilities inside Baghdad. Almost the same area where the Iranian general was killed,” he added.
The official targets to repatriate first Filipinos working and living near US facilities in Iraq before they move to other gulf countries with US military bases such as Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.
“The best way for the moment is for them to leave Iraq immediately,” he said.
Secretary Cimatu also confirmed that Philippine representatives have also been deployed to Iran to assess the situation of Filipinos there.
Cimatu worries, however, how to deal with the situation of undocumented Filipinos.
Nevertheless, Cimatu calls on the relatives of undocumented Filipinos in the Middle East to coordinate with authorities to locate their loved ones especially those within the possible target areas.
“Ang parents naman nila rito ang magsasabi that they are there, so ito yung mga sources namin kung saan talaga sila, (Their parents here can tell us if they are there so they will be our sources to identify their exact locations),” Cimatu concluded. – MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)
Washington,DC — Eleven United States soldiers were injured in the Jan. 8 Iranian bombing of a military base in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani in a targeted strike, the US Central Command said in a statement Thursday.
Initially, the Pentagon had said that the attack had not caused any injuries but now, after re-evaluating the victims, it has identified some symptoms of possible concussions due to the force of the impact of the missiles.
“While no US service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” Centcom spokesperson Bill Urban said in a statement.
“Out of an abundance of caution,” in the days following the attack, eight soldiers were transported from the Al Asad air base in western Iraq to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, while three others were sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for follow-on screening, the official said.
“When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening,” he added.
After the attack on the air base, Iran warned that it was only the beginning of a series of retaliatory actions it would take to avenge the death of Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force and a highly respected figure in the Persian county, in a US targeted strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3.
At the time, US President Donald Trump chose not to respond to the Iranian offensive with military force and said in a speech to the nation that he would impose more sanctions against Iran.
Those sanctions were directed against eight senior Iranian officials, including Iran’s Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani, as well as against the country’s steel, iron, aluminum and copper industry.
“The United States is targeting senior Iranian officials for their involvement and complicity in Tuesday’s ballistic missile strikes,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said in a statement outlining the sanctions.
“We are also designating Iran’s largest metals manufacturers, and imposing sanctions on new sectors of the Iranian economy including construction, manufacturing, and mining,” he added.
Tehran and Washington, which have had no diplomatic relations since 1979, have experienced multiple crises since Trump ordered the US’ exit from a landmark multilateral agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program in 2018.
The current escalation of tension coincides with the downing of a Ukrainian aircraft by the Islamic Republic, which caused the death of all 176 people aboard. EFE-EPA
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in talks with Filipino officials on Tuesday (January 14) to assure the safety of Filipinos in Iran.
Philippine Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo C. Santos, arranged and facilitated talks between Presidential Adviser for Overseas Filipino Workers (PAOFW) Secretary Abdullah Mama-o and the Iranian Foreign Minister to discuss the safety of Filipinos amid the tension between the United States and Iran.
The talks also aims to “ensure their safe passage in the event of worsening tensions and armed confrontation.”
Meanwhile, the first batch of repatriated Filipinos from Iraq arrived on Wednesday (January 15).
“The first batch of Filipinos (11 adults and 2 children) have been successfully repatriated from Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq,” according to the statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).—AAC
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