MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday appealed to Filipinos who have relatives in Iraq to convince them to return to the Philippines while the situation there is still manageable.
“Tinatawagan natin ang ating mga kababayan sa Pilipinas na may kaanak o mahal sa buhay na nasa Iraq, sana naman po ay himukin nila, kumbinsihin nila ang mga kaanak o mahal sa buhay na lumikas na po sa Iraq habang may pagkakataon pa po,” DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said.
In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. likewise appealed to Filipinos in danger zones to return to the country.
“We are calling on our residents, especially those who are in the danger zones, to voluntary repatriate themselves or return to the Philippines at government expense,” he said.
But he said that they are not forcing anyone to do anything against their will, although they have deployed a quick response team to talk to them.
On Saturday, the DFA raised alert level 3 for most parts of Iraq due to the deteriorating security situation there. Under this alert level, Filipinos are encouraged to seek voluntary repatriation at government expense.
There are more or less 900 Filipinos in Iraq, according to the DFA.
Jose said although most of the Filipinos in Iraq are in Kurdistan region, which is relatively calm and stable and still under alert level 1 (precautionary phase), they should seize the opportunity to leave the country and not wait for the situation there to worsen.
“Gusto namin tawagan ang mga kababayan natin sa Iraq na i-take na nila itong pagkakataon na ito para makauwi sa Pilipinas at ‘wag na pong hintayin ang sitwasyon doon at sagot naman ng ating pamahalaan ang pamasahe under dito sa voluntary repatriation,” he said.
He said there are also Filipinos in Baghdad, which was one of the areas of intense armed conflict. The Philippine embassy is located there.
Jose said they have yet to receive any information about violence in the area and the response of Filipinos on the raising of alert level from the embassy.
“Wala pa naman po silang nire-report na violence at naghihintay pa tayo ng mga ulat. Ngayon po ay naga-undertake sila ng information dissemination sa mga kababayan doon para ipaalam na nasa voluntary repatriation phase na po tayo ngayon sa Iraq,” he said.
He reiterated that the DFA will be sending a rapid response to Iraq to assist in the repatriation of Filipinos there.
Jose added that the embassy has a contingency plan where the possible exit routes are identified in case the situation worsens.
Jose said they are closely and carefully monitoring the situation in Iraq and will raise the alert level to 4, which means mandatory repatriation, if needed.
“Mino-monitor natin very closely, very carefully ang sitwasyon doon, ang mga developments sa Iraq. Kung talagang umigting ang karahasan doon ay maaaring itaas sa alert level 4, ito po ay mandatory repatriation na po,” he said. (MNS)