In the wake of rising tension between the United States and Iran, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been ordered by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to prepare its air and naval assets which could be used in the evacuation of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East should hostilities erupt in the region.
This, according to Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a message to reporters.
“The President has tasked the AFP to prepare its air and naval assets to evacuate and bring home our countrymen if and when open hostilities erupt in the Middle East that may endanger their lives,” Andolong said.
He said this order came after the Chief Executive called for an emergency meeting with DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, newly-appointed AFP chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Felimon T. Santos, Jr., commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, Philippine National Police chief, and their principal staffs on Sunday afternoon.
The meeting, he said, was conducted to ensure the safety of Filipinos working in the Middle East especially those deployed in Iran and Iraq whose well-being could be endangered in the event of open hostilities.
“The sole agenda was how to ensure the safety of our countrymen in the Middle East especially those in Iraq and Iran as the tension between the US and Iran rises. There are 1,600 and 6,000 Filipinos in Iran and Iraq, respectively,” Andolong said.
Tensions escalated in the Middle East after top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq on January 3 which was reportedly ordered by US President Donald Trump.
Tehran vowed a fierce retaliation against those responsible for the death of Soleimani. (PNA)