MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos in Iran and Lebanon are no longer covered by Malacañang’s mandatory repatriation order as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) downgraded alert levels in those countries on Thursday, January 9.
Despite this, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), would still halt the processing applications to Iran and Lebanon “for the meantime,” according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
The DFA had initially raised Alert Level 4 in Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq following rising tensions in the Middle East, but later downgraded the alert level in the first two countries.
Bello said that the mandatory evacuation of OFWs and total deployment ban would continue to be enforced in Iraq.
Evacuation plans: Bello told reporters Wednesday, January 8, that rapid response teams would be deployed to the Middle East after Iran attacked bases housing US troops in Iraq. This came after the assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by the US.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself ordered the mandatory evacuation of some 1,600 Filipinos in Iraq, the hotbed of this recent escalation in US-Iranian tensions since the killing of Soleimani at the Baghdad International Airport.
The Philippine military will be sending assets and troops to the embattled country “as soon as possible,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Lorenzana said the Philippine Navy would deploy one of its landing dock ships, the BRP Davao del Sur, which would be able to accommodate up to 700 repatriates at a time. The Navy could also send one of its Del Pilar class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs). The Philippine Airforce would also assist, lending 3 of its transport and cargo aircraft: two C-130 planes and one C-295 plane.
The Philippine government has reiterated that its troops would only assist in repatriation and other humanitarian efforts in the Middle East.
Government officials and response teams would also be sent to the Middle East and could arrive there as early as the start of next week, Bello said. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac was set to fly to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia to Lebanon, and Labor Undersecretary Claro Arellano to the United Arab Emirates. – Rappler.com