Gov’t has ready funds for repatriation of Filipinos from Middle East: budget official

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2020 01:28 PM

Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces hold a funeral for the Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, top commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, and the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in an airstrike at Baghdad airport, in Baghdad, Iraq, January 4, 2020. Thaier al-Sudani, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippine government has enough funds under the 2020 national budget for the repatriation of its people from the Middle East, a budget official said Wednesday, as President Rodrigo Duterte called for standby resources in light of the brewing war in the region.

Around P1.8 billion has been allocated in the budget for the repatriation of Filipino workers, Budget Assistant Secretary Rolando Toledo said Wednesday as the government ordered the evacuation of its people in Iraq.

“Even without the pronouncement of the President, we already have the budget for the repatriation,” Toledo told reporters in Malacañang.

“The government is ready for the call of repatriation of overseas Filipino workers,” he added.

Of the allocated amount, P1.29 billion is under the Department of Foreign Affairs while P600 million is with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Toledo said. The Department of Budget and Management, however, has yet to release a copy of the signed spending plan for this year.

The government also has a P13-billion contingency fund that it could tap in the event the budget for the evacuation of Filipino migrants would fall short, Toledo said.

The death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the popular head of the Revolutionary Guards' foreign operations arm, has rocketed tensions between Washington and Tehran. He was killed in a US airstrike just outside the Baghdad airport on Jan. 3. 

Duterte has expressed fears for the safety of his countrymen in the Middle East and asked Congress to hold a special session to discuss the tensions between Iran and the United States.

"I do not have anything, nary a worry, were it not for a fact that there are a lot of Filipinos there... We need the money. I need it before it actually starts," Duterte said last Monday.

On Wednesday, the Philippine Embassy in Iraq said it raised the highest in a 4-step crisis alert system, which called for a mandatory repatriation of Filipinos after Iran launched missiles against US forces in Baghdad.