PH braces for fallout from Middle East rift

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 06 2017 04:55 PM | Updated as of Jun 06 2017 05:46 PM

A Qatar Airways plane is seen in Doha, Qatar June 5, 2017. Reuters/Stringer

The Philippine government expressed concern over several Arab powers breaking off diplomatic ties with Qatar, saying this may have "ripple effects" on Filipinos working overseas.

"Concerned government agencies are looking at the matter and will extend assistance and other support for OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) who may be affected by such action," presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, presidential spokesman, told a media briefing. 

Malacañang also assured Filipinos working in Qatar that the Philippine government will give them necessary assistance as the Arab country deals with a major diplomatic row with its neighbors.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move on Monday, accusing it of support for Islamist militants and Iran.

Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives joined later. Transport links shut down and may have triggered supply shortages.

Doha is home to some 220,000 Filipino workers, according to the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the wake of the row, the Department of Labor and Employment on Tuesday suspended the deployment of Filipino workers to Qatar.

The Philippine Embassy earlier advised overseas Filipino workers based in Qatar to remain calm and "exercise prudence as we all closely monitor the situation."

Filipino workers were also told to consult their travel agents and make necessary arrangements after Etihad Airways, Emirates Airlines, and other regional carriers suspended flights to and from the kingdom.

The tensions also had people hoarding food supplies in fear of shortage.

Cesar, a Filipino worker in Doha, sent ABS-CBN News photos of empty shelves in the supermarket where he works.

"Iyung panic buying po kahapon, totoo po iyun. Sa kabila ng pagiging kalmado ng ating mga kababayan na sabi ay hindi naman dapat magpanic, iyun po ang totoong nangyari dito po kahapon... Iyung shelves po namin ay talaga totally empty po," said Cesar, whose name was withheld on his request.

(The reports of panic buying here yesterday are true. Although our fellow Filipinos stayed calm, that is really what happened. Our shelves here are now totally empty.)

Cesar said he was not sure how their supermarket would replenish stocks since the Gulf countries that severed ties with Qatar supply about 80 percent of its food requirements.

Qatar, a small peninsular nation of 2.5 million people that has a large US military base, denounced the action as predicated on lies about it supporting militants. It has often been accused of being a funding source for terrorists.

Iran, long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move, blamed US President Donald Trump's visit last month to Riyadh and called for the sides to overcome their differences. - with Karen Lema, Reuters