MANILA - Filipinos in Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan region were advised to remain calm but to avoid travel to the Kirkuk province, where clashes between Iraqi forces and Iraqi Kurdish fighters have been reported.
Apart from limiting their "non-essential movement," the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad also asked Filipinos in the area to continue monitoring updates and to register with them as soon as possible so they could be contacted in case of an emergency.
"The Embassy also again informs our kababayans, especially those who are unemployed and undocumented, to consider requesting our assistance in getting repatriated," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in its second advisory in light of the situation in Kirkuk.
Roughly 3,000 Filipinos are working in Iraq, according to the DFA.
The department on Saturday said diplomatic post in the Iraqi capital "does not see any immediate threat to the safety and security of our kababayans in the region" despite reported tensions in the province.
The embassy also asked Filipinos in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Duhok and other parts of Kurdistan to remain vigilant and to report any "unusual developments."
The DFA added, Filipinos intending to travel to the Philippines and other countries abroad will be "directly impacted" by Iraq's decision to suspend international flights to and from Kurdistan.
Filipinos going on vacation would have to take Iraqi Airways to the capital, Baghdad, to board connecting flights to the Philippines or elsewhere outside the country, it said.
"Filipinos who entered Kurdistan directly and without valid Iraqi visas will only be allowed to board their connecting flights out of Baghdad after paying a fine of $420.00 to immigration authorities," it added.
Filipinos intending to travel out of Kurdistan were also notified that returning to Iraq may become a problem for those without valid Iraqi visas.
The Philippine post, it said, has not yet received guidelines from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad on whether it would be possible for Filipino nationals already in the Philippines to secure their visas at the Iraqi Embassy in Manila.
"In view of this, the Embassy believes that it would be better for our kababayans to put on hold their travel plans until this matter is clarified," said the DFA.
"The Embassy regrets to inform our kababayans that it would not be in a position to assist Filipinos who may not be able to return to their jobs in Kurdistan in the even that they would not be able to secure their visas," it added.
Although the Kurdistan Region remains under Alert Level I, the DFA said the Embassy is ready to assist and bring home Filipinos who are willing to be repatriated.
"The Embassy would want our kababayans who have been without work or have not been receiving their salaries or have expired iqamas to seriously consider getting repatriated. Please contact us if you would need assistance in going home to your loved ones," it said.