MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to prepare its aircraft and ships for the possible evacuation of Filipinos in the Middle East if the tension between the United States and Iran further escalates, a Defense official said on Sunday.
Duterte held an emergency meeting with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and officials of the military and police in Malacañang on Sunday to discuss the situation in the Middle East, Department of Defense Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.
"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," Andolong said.
There are 1,600 and 6,000 Filipinos in Iran and Iraq, respectively, he said.
Tensions between the US and Iran escalated after a US drone strike killed military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday.
The attack took long-running hostilities between Washington and Tehran into uncharted territory and raised the specter of wider conflict in the Middle East.
Iran condemned Donald Trump on Sunday as a "terrorist in a suit" after the US president threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites hard if Tehran attacks Americans or US assets in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani.
As the two countries assailed each other in a war of words, the European Union, Britain and Oman urged the parties to seek to de-escalate the crisis.
In Iraq, many people including opponents of Soleimani have expressed anger at Washington for killing Solemaini and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on Iraqi soil and potentially dragging their country into another war.
Lawmakers planned a special parliamentary session on Sunday to push for a vote on a resolution requiring the government to ask Washington to withdraw US troops from the country. - With reports from Reuters