Former DFA Usec urges PH Gov’t officials to observe “strategic silence” in Middle East crisis » Manila Bulletin News



By Roy C. Mabasa

Philippine government officials are being urged to observe “strategic silence” in dealing with the brewing diplomatic row between Qatar and several Arab and Islamic countries.

According to former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who is regarded as an expert on Middle East affairs, during such crisis “it’s always good to observe the basic principle of diplomacy, which is to stay quiet.”

Former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis

Seguis cited as an example the recent deployment ban to Qatar imposed by Labor Secretary Bello in an apparent reaction to the severing diplomatic ties with Qatar by several Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and the Maldives.

However, Bello immediately withdrew the ban in favor of partial deployment.

Seguis, who spent a major part of his five-decade diplomatic career serving in various capacities in the Middle East, said such drastic actions, without proper consultation, may be misconstrued as siding with one party and in the long run may just complicate the country’s best interest.

He pointed out that many of those countries currently locked in this latest diplomatic friction in the Middle East are home to thousands of Filipino overseas workers. He stressed that the region is the main source of the country’s oil supply.

“Any preparations can be done discreetly by quietly instructing our concerned embassies and consulates to update their respective contigency plans,” said Seguis

He said what the government should do is to “update the Rapid Response Team (RRT) mechanism that has already been in place.”

While Seguis believes that it’s unlikely the present Middle East diplomatic crisis would result into war, he, however, said “it’s always better to be on the side of caution for the sake of our OFWs.”

In a statement issued earlier this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs expressed concern over the events in the Gulf region. Nevertheless, it urged all Filipinos in the affected countries to remain calm, to exercise prudence and to regularly communicate with the Philippine Embassies or Consulates in their respective countries of residence.

“Our Foreign Service Posts are closely monitoring the situation, and our primary concern is to ensure the welfare of our kababayans in the affected countries,” the DFA said while expressing hope that all concerned parties will be able to resolve issues peacefully,

Likewise, it gave its assurance that the Department of Labor and Employment, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Philippine Overseas Labor offices in the Gulf Region continue to closely monitor, reassess and coordinate on the situation in the area.

The DFA has also clarified that persons working in or who have urgent business in Qatar are free to return but should observe usual precautions.

DFA continues to process documents for employment in Qatar. However new hires still in the Philippines will be covered by a temporary moratorium on deployment while the situation is being assessed.

The DFA reiterated its readiness to provide all necessary assistance as it remains committed to safeguarding the welfare of overseas Filipinos in the region.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives have severed diplomatic relations with Qatar whom they accused of “harboring a multitude of terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to create instability in the region.”

Qatar’s foreign ministry said it regretted the measures by the Arab nations, calling the decisions “unjustified.”


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