By Roy C. Mabasa
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday said it was ready to respond to any contingency arising from the brewing tensions in the Middle East to ensure the safety of about two million Filipinos working in the region.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano assured that the DFA remains on top of the situation and is continuously monitoring developments in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iraq.
“Of course, we are very much concerned with what is happening in the Middle East because whether we like it or not we would be affected by the outcome of developments taking place there,” Cayetano said in a statement sent to reporters.
The foreign affairs chief likewise assured the public that if the situation escalates, “we can be expected to respond and lead our kababayans out of harm’s way.”
Moreover, he voiced his concern over last week’s ballistic missile attack in Saudi Arabia, host to almost one million Filipino workers. The attack targeted the heavily populated airport area in Riyadh, endangering the lives of many innocent civilians, including Filipinos.
According to him, the DFA was also closely watching the situation in Lebanon, host to almost 30,000 Filipino workers, after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates ordered their nationals to leave the country.
Similar monitoring was also being conducted in Iraq, particularly the situation in the Kurdistan Region, host to 3,000 Filipino workers, after tensions between Baghdad and Erbil went up in the aftermath of an independence referendum in the region.
The DFA said contingency plans of the foreign posts in Riyadh, Beirut and Bahgdad have been updated and that it is ready to raise alert levels and issue an order for mandatory evacuation when the situation calls for it.
The DFA rapid response teams are also on standby ready to be deployed anytime to assist in any evacuation, the statement said
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