The Department of National Defense (DND) said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will send two ships, three planes, and two battalions for the repatriation of overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in the Middles East.
DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the two landing ships can accommodate 500 persons each. They will also send two C130 and a C295 planes.
Lorenzana clarified the two battalions will be deployed to assist Filipinos who will return to the country as tension continues to rise between the United States (US) and Iran.
“The two battalions will not be there to engage in combat with anybody, but to facilitate or help assist in the repatriation of the OFWs especially in Iraq. Hindi sila magpunta doon para makipaglaban, (they will not be sent there to fight)” Lorenzana said.
The Defense Secretary also said they also considering to use cruise ships and commercial airlines to accommodate more Filipinos returning home.
Meanwhile, the BRP Gabriela Silang of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is set to sail in the Middle East to assist in the repatriation.
Lorenzana also raised concerns over Filipinos who will refuse to leave the Middle East and said it will be a challenge.
“Some Filipinos do not want to leave their job. Kasi sabi nila, ‘anong gagawin natin sa Pilipinas?’ (because they will say ‘what will they do in the Philippines?’) But hopefully, we will be able to convince them—kung medyo delikado iyong buhay nila (if their lives are in danger)—to come home,” he said.—AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)
President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines will not be sending troops to the Middle East unless “the national interest would demand it.”
This is amid the rising tension between the United States (US) and Iran.
“It will be decided not by me, but me and Congress,” Duterte said on Tuesday (January 7).
The President also said the Philippines will honor its defense treaty with the US but won’t allow US forces to use the Philippines as a ‘launching pad’.
“We will continue to respect it in transit. But to use the Philippines as a launching pad for—to fly the missiles and the rockets, I do not think that. I have to stop them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the government has allotted P1.8 billion for the repatriation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in the Middle East.
“We have provided in the budget already even without that. We already have funds for the repatriation of Overseas Filipino Workers, in the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs], P1.29 billion in the budget,” he said. “We also have allocation of 100 million in the OWWA budget, and we have also some funds we can tap under the OWWA funds. ”
The government is already preparing for the repatriation of Filipinos in Iran.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced on Monday (January 6) that it is prepared to deploy its air and naval assets once the government orders the evacuation of Filipinos in the Middle East.
AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said they have already laid out their contingency plan to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The indicators will be determined. Pag-uusapan namin ng national government (we will discuss it with the national government) the go signal is from them especially with the DFA with all the inputs,” he said.
Among the air and naval assets available include the C-130s as well as new frigates that are able to travel to the Middle East.
The AFP chief of staff added they are still improving their plans due to the possibility that tension might spread in neighboring countries of Iran.
“We are improving our plans not only on Iran and Iraq but the whole Middle East. We don’t know; it might spread to other countries, especially if you know the history of the war. It might spread to Israel. There are probabilities like that,” he said.
Meanwhile, the AFP is monitoring a possible retaliatory act of Iran in countries allied with the United States (US).
It is also monitoring local terrorist groups who might sympathize with the Iranian militia.
“Siyempre mayroong sympathetic, either by race or by ideology, so the PNP [Philippine National Police] is profiling possible threats, possible groups who may take advantage or who might share sympathies (Of course, there will be those sympathetic, either by race or by ideology, so the PNP is profiling possible threats, possible groups who may take advantage or who might share sympathies). So our intelligence monitoring will be continuous up until medyo luminaw na iyong problema doon sa Middle East (until the problem in the Middle East clears up),” Santos said.
Tensions between the U.S and Iran rose following the death of Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani on January 3 after the US launched an airstrike on an airport in Baghdad, Iraq.
President Rodrigo Duterte called for an emergency meeting in Malacañang on Sunday (January 5).
This is to determine the possible effects of the rising tension on thousands of Filipinos in the Middle East especially in Iran and Iraq.—AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)
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