MANILA - Malacanang on Wednesday said there are no Filipinos in the troubled Crimea region in Ukraine.
"Labor Secretary (Rosalinda) Baldoz informed us that there are about 172 Filipinos in Ukraine. Are they situated in Crimea? We asked the Department of Foreign Affairs. They are not situated in the Crimean peninsula. They are situated in Kiev," said Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
Kiev is the capital of Ukraine which has seen some political instability in recent weeks.
"As you know, Kiev is more than 800 kilometers from the Crimean peninsula. But nonetheless, we wanted to be sure that they are safe, so the DFA issued the Alert 2. But hopefully, as with the recent statements of Mr. (Vladimir) Putin, things would hopefully cool down in Ukraine," Lacierda added.
Lacierda was referring to remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin that allayed fears of an imminent military conflict in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, the DFA raised crisis alert level 2 in Ukraine and called on Filipinos to restrict non-essential movements and to avoid public places.
The DFA likewise advised Filipinos to "closely monitor developments, and prepare for possible evacuation."
Putin had delivered a robust defense of Russia's actions in Crimea and said on Tuesday that he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort, easing market fears that East-West tension over the former Soviet republic could lead to war.
But tension remained high on the ground. Russian forces fired warning shots in a confrontation with Ukrainian servicemen at an air base, and Russian navy ships were reported to have blockaded the strait separating the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula from Russia.
At his first news conference since the crisis began, Putin said Russia reserved the right to use all options to protect compatriots who were living in "terror" in Ukraine but that force was not needed for now.
His comments, coupled with the end of Russian war games near Ukraine's borders, lifted Russian bonds and stock markets around the world after a panic sell-off on Monday.
Putin denied the Russian armed forces were directly engaged in the bloodless seizure of Crimea, saying the uniformed troops without national insignia were "local self-defense forces".
"As for bringing in forces, for now there is no such need, but such a possibility exists," he said. "What could serve as a reason to use military force? It would naturally be the last resort. Absolutely the last." - With Reuters