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 should hostilities erupt there.
MANILA, Philippines — 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 should violence break out, reflecting Asia’s growing fears for its citizens in the increasingly volatile 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 Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
South Korean government ministries have discussed strengthening protections for the nearly 1,900 South Koreans in Iraq and Iran. Indian 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.
Duterte expressed fears Monday that the Philippines may have to carry out massive evacuations if violence hits Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia that host large numbers of Filipino workers.
“I’m nervous. Iran seems to be hellbent on a retaliation, which I think will come. It’s a matter of time; the cry for blood is there,” Duterte said in a speech. He urged Congress to hold a special session on the effect of a possible crisis in the Middle East and set aside contingency funds.
Iran has vowed to retaliate and President Donald Trump warned that U.S. forces would hit back if Americans come under attack. Iraq’s Parliament has called for the expulsion of all U.S. 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.
Military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said Philippine forces have identified possible evacuation routes not only in Iraq and Iran but other hot spots, like Israel.