Flee Syria, Pinoys warned amid planned attack

Paterno Esmaquel II
'Get out of harm's way,' DFA tells Filipinos in Syria

SYRIAN REFUGEES. A photo made available on September 1, 2013 shows Syrian refugees crossing at the Cilvegozu border gate in Reyhanli, Hatay, Turkey on August 31, 2013. Photo by EPA/Emin Sansar Turkey

MANILA, Philippines – Warning Filipinos of planned air strikes in Syria, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday, September 2, said hundreds of Filipinos should join the growing number of repatriates from the strife-torn nation.

“We have been encouraging our citizens in Syria to get out of harm’s way and seek immediate repatriation since we raised alert level 4,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters on Monday.

For the Philippine government, crisis alert level 4 entails mandatory repatriation. Hernandez thus advised Filipinos there to seek immediate repatriation “for their own safety and well-being.”

The spokesman noted the Philippine government has repatriated 4,567 Filipinos from Syria as of Monday. Earlier, he said around 3,000 Filipinos have not been repatriated.

“In the meantime we advise our kababayans (countrymen) to avoid places which could be the target of air strikes, such as military installations, telecommunications facilities, defense buildings, and the like,” Hernandez said.

‘Cross-border repatriations’

He added the government will undertake “more cross-border repatriation operations” in the coming days.

Last Friday, August 30, for instance, he said 68 Filipinos safely crossed the Syrian-Lebanese border assisted by Philippine embassy personnel.

US President Barack Obama has said he had decided the August 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that Washington says killed more than 1,400 people was so heinous – and such a threat to long-term US security – that he would respond with a limited military strike.

But he said he believed it was important to win Congress’s support when it officially returns from its summer break on September 9.

Days after Obama disclosed the planned attack, Pope Francis called on the world to unite in a day of fasting and prayer for Syria on Saturday, September 7, and said “God and history” would judge anyone using chemical weapons. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.