Philippines braces to evacuate its workers in Iraq, Iran
Monday, 6 January 2020 () MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to prepare to deploy its aircraft and ships “at any moment’s notice” to evacuate thousands of Filipino workers in Iraq and Iran, reflecting Asia’s growing fears for its citizens amid a potential outbreak of violence in the Middle East.
Other Asian nations with large populations of expatriate labor may face similar decisions amid the rapidly escalating tensions between the United States and Iran following last week’s U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said last week it would work to increase the security of about 1,600 of its nationals in Iraq, where they work mostly in construction sites. India’s foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said India wasn’t planning to evacuate any citizens from the volatile region “yet.”
Duterte held an emergency meeting with his defense secretary and top military and police officials Sunday to discuss the evacuation plans.
“President Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to be prepared to deploy military assets to repatriate overseas Filipinos in the Middle East, particularly from Iran and Iraq, at any moment's notice,” said Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go, a close ally of the Duterte who was at the meeting.
Iran has vowed to retaliate and President Donald Trump warned American forces would hit back at 52 Iranian targets if Americans come under attack. Iraq's Parliament has also called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil, which could revive the Islamic State group in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place.
Compounding contingency plans is the uncertainty where hostilities could possibly break out.