Philippines readies to pull out its citizens from Middle East amid growing tensions

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to prepare its air and naval assets to help evacuate Filipinos in the Middle East in case open hostilities between the US and Iran erupt there, Bloomberg News wrote.

Duterte called for an emergency meeting with defense officials on January 5 to discuss how the growing US-Iran tensions could affect the safety of Philippine citizens in the Middle East, especially those in Iran and Iraq, the department of defense said in a statement.

There are 6,000 Philippine citizens in Iraq and 1,600 in Iran, according to the department. Some of them are documented, some are not.

In a televised speech on January 6, Duterte said he is considering calling Congress for a special session to ensure that there are stand-by funds in case Filipinos in the Middle East have to be repatriated.

“We, Filipinos, are really in grave peril,” Duterte said.

“I am nervous. Iran seems to be bent on a retaliation which I think will come. It’s a matter of time,” he said.

Cash remittances in jeopardy in case OFW have to get repatriated

The Middle East is the Philippines’ largest destination for land-based workers with deployment of more than one million annually, according to latest government data. The region is also the second-largest source of cash remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), based on central bank data.

An escalation of regional tensions in the Middle East could further result in a temporary ban of deployment of OFW and at least two million of them currently working in the Gulf countries would be put in danger. This would also mean lesser OFW remittances, especially if they are to be repatriated.

Filipinos working abroad sent back home a whopping $32.21 billion in 2018, which, according to the Philippine central bank, was a record figure. A crisis-triggered drop in remittances, together with higher oil prices making basic goods and services more expensive, could lead to financial difficulties and growing poverty in the Philippines, lawmakers warn.

Indonesia, Thailand share concerns

Other Southeast Asian countries share the Philippines’ concerns.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry issued a statement on January 4, saying it was “concerned with the escalating situation” and called for its nationals in Iraq to “always exercise caution.” It advised the currently 864 Indonesians there to contact the embassy if they need urgent assistance.

Thai officials and executives in the energy sector held an emergency meeting in Bangkok on January 6, saying that overall Thai exports would face greater headwinds if the situation deteriorates and a higher oil price would lead to overall higher prices of goods.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to prepare its air and naval assets to help evacuate Filipinos in the Middle East in case open hostilities between the US and Iran erupt there, Bloomberg News wrote. Duterte called for an emergency meeting with defense officials on January 5 to discuss how the growing US-Iran tensions could affect the safety of Philippine citizens in the Middle East, especially those in Iran and Iraq, the department of defense said in a statement. There are 6,000 Philippine citizens in Iraq and 1,600 in Iran, according to the department. Some of them are...

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to prepare its air and naval assets to help evacuate Filipinos in the Middle East in case open hostilities between the US and Iran erupt there, Bloomberg News wrote.

Duterte called for an emergency meeting with defense officials on January 5 to discuss how the growing US-Iran tensions could affect the safety of Philippine citizens in the Middle East, especially those in Iran and Iraq, the department of defense said in a statement.

There are 6,000 Philippine citizens in Iraq and 1,600 in Iran, according to the department. Some of them are documented, some are not.

In a televised speech on January 6, Duterte said he is considering calling Congress for a special session to ensure that there are stand-by funds in case Filipinos in the Middle East have to be repatriated.

“We, Filipinos, are really in grave peril,” Duterte said.

“I am nervous. Iran seems to be bent on a retaliation which I think will come. It’s a matter of time,” he said.

Cash remittances in jeopardy in case OFW have to get repatriated

The Middle East is the Philippines’ largest destination for land-based workers with deployment of more than one million annually, according to latest government data. The region is also the second-largest source of cash remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), based on central bank data.

An escalation of regional tensions in the Middle East could further result in a temporary ban of deployment of OFW and at least two million of them currently working in the Gulf countries would be put in danger. This would also mean lesser OFW remittances, especially if they are to be repatriated.

Filipinos working abroad sent back home a whopping $32.21 billion in 2018, which, according to the Philippine central bank, was a record figure. A crisis-triggered drop in remittances, together with higher oil prices making basic goods and services more expensive, could lead to financial difficulties and growing poverty in the Philippines, lawmakers warn.

Indonesia, Thailand share concerns

Other Southeast Asian countries share the Philippines’ concerns.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry issued a statement on January 4, saying it was “concerned with the escalating situation” and called for its nationals in Iraq to “always exercise caution.” It advised the currently 864 Indonesians there to contact the embassy if they need urgent assistance.

Thai officials and executives in the energy sector held an emergency meeting in Bangkok on January 6, saying that overall Thai exports would face greater headwinds if the situation deteriorates and a higher oil price would lead to overall higher prices of goods.

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