Philippines evacuates Filipinos in Iran, Iraq to ‘safe place’

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2020 07:11 PM | Updated as of Jan 08 2020 08:10 PM

Fake caskets covered with American and Israeli flags at the funeral procession for Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. In Jerusalem and elsewhere across the Middle East, United States embassies warned Americans of potential attacks from Iran, as Iranian generals vowed to avenge Soleimani, the senior commander killed in an American drone strike. Arash Khamooshi, The New York Times

MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in Iran and Iraq after Tehran fired ballistic missiles against 2 US airbases in Baghdad, his spokesman said Wednesday.

The government wanted to move Filipinos in the said countries to a “safe place” in the Middle East until tensions in the region deescalate, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

“Right now, the concern is the evacuation of these Filipinos to a safe place,” Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.

“The President has ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in those areas so they will be safe and out of harm’s way,” he added, in reference to Iran and Iraq.

Asked on plans to bring home Filipino migrants, Panelo said it might be too risky to fly them back to the Philippines with the escalating tensions.

“Ise-secure muna natin sila,” he said.

(We will secure them first.)

Around 1,600 Filipinos in Iran and 6,000 in Iraq, may be relocated to Qatar, Panelo added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said the country would send a military ship, air assets, and 2 battalions of soldiers to help evacuate Filipinos in Iraq.

In response to last week's killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Tehran on Wednesday fired "more than a dozen" ballistic missiles against 2 air bases in Iraq where US and coalition forces are based, the Pentagon said.

The attacks came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to "respond" to a US drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse