In the wake of rising tension between the United States and Iran, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been ordered by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to prepare its air and naval assets which could be used in the evacuation of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East should hostilities erupt in the region.
This, according to Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a message to reporters Sunday night.
“The President has tasked the AFP to prepare its air and naval assets to evacuate and bring home our countrymen if and when open hostilities erupt in the Middle East that may endanger their lives,” Andolong said.
He said this order came after the Chief Executive called for an emergency meeting with DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, newly-appointed AFP chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Felimon T. Santos, Jr., commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, Philippine National Police chief, and their principal staffs on Sunday afternoon.
The meeting, he said, was conducted to ensure the safety of Filipinos working in the Middle East especially those deployed in Iran and Iraq whose well-being could be endangered in the event of open hostilities.
“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. There are 1,600 and 6,000 Filipinos in Iran and Iraq, respectively,” Andolong said.
Tensions escalated in the Middle East after top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq on January 3 which was reportedly ordered by US President Donald Trump.
Tehran vowed a fierce retaliation against those responsible for the death of Soleimani. (PNA)
A labor group on Saturday urged the government to create an evacuation plan for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) working in the Middle East who might be affected by a possible escalation of violence in the region.
“With the growing instability in that region, there is an urgent need for a Philippine government escape plan that takes every OFWs from harm’s way either by land, sea or air,” Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) president and party-List Rep. Raymond Mendoza in a statement.
Mendoza also asked President Rodrigo Duterte to convene government agencies that would draft a plan for Filipinos in case the situation worsens.
“We therefore call on the President to convene a multi-government agency panel that would device an early escape plan which would lead or supervise a possible relocation or repatriation of our OFWs before they are directly affected by the escalating armed conflict in the region,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said the plan involves multiple type of government responses that requires contributions from different government institutions such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, among others.
Mendoza, who also chairs the House Committee on Overseas Foreign Workers, said the advance government plan will also bring in advance notice to OFWs and allay anxiety among them and their families back at home.
“There is no harm in being prepared, identifying contingency measures and taking due diligence in anticipation of a worst-case scenario in the Middle East,” he said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed that last year, there are around 1.2 million registered OFWs working in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, and Bahrain.
Tensions escalated in the region after top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq on Friday which was ordered by US President Donald Trump.
Tehran vowed a fierce retaliation against those responsible for the death of Soleimani. (PNA)
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, November 7, said killing of journalists is “hideous and wrong” and assured to uphold freedom of the press and expression in the country under his leadership.
In a report in the state-owned Philippine News Agency (PNA), President Duterte in his speech at the induction of new officers of the National Press Club (NPC) officers, emphasized the role of the media as the Fourth Estate which fights abuses in government.
”Here in our country, press freedom is thriving, it’s working,” President Duterte said before the oath-taking of the NPC officers led by its president Paul Gutierrez at Malacanang Palace.
”The problem here in our country is the continued killings of media people. Of course, by itself, this (is) fundamentally hideous and wrong,” he said.
Threats to media come with the job of journalists because of their adversarial role.
”Remember that freedom of press (is) mostly against establishment, the state and its abuses,” the President said.
The Philippines ranks third in the world in terms of journalists killed in the line of duty.
President Duterte’s first administrative order was the creation of presidential task force that will protect members of the media from violations of their right to life, liberty and security.
Under the Administrative Order No. 01 he signed last October 11, the Duterte administration declares as a matter of policy that all of the forms of political violence and abuses of power, whether by agents or elements of the State or of non-State forces against the members of the so-called Fourth Estate must stop.
President Benigno Aquino has apparently emerged as a campaigner for rivals of Mar Roxas in the 2016 presidential derby.
In his speech in Rome, Aquino further alienated Filipino Overseas Workers (OFWs) from Roxas, the standard bearer of the ruling Liberal Party who is already facing a potential ` boycott by Pinoy migrant workers.
Instead of tackling the plight of the overseas workers, Aquino, in the December 4 speech before about 500 OFWs at the Ergife Palace Hotel, campaigned for Roxas and skewered rivals of his former Interior secretary.
The campaign pitch did not sit well with the crowd that expected Aquino to speak on government policies on overseas workers, and drew varied reactions foremost of which is against Aquino’s apparent preference for politicking than the plight of the OFWs.
The Aquino stunt could further seal the political doom of Roxas, who had earlier been crucified by OFWs over the “Laglag-Bala” scandal in Philippine airports which also victimized overseas workers.
The militant group Migrante which is espousing rights of OFWs, had scored the Aquino government for the extortion by airport personnel who drop bullets into baggage of airplane passengers.
Roxas, also a former secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) which has over-all control of Philippine airports, defended the Aquino administration by saying that government should not be faulted if OFWs are caught with bullets in their luggage.
Migrante reacted strongly to the Roxas statement with a threat It would mobilize OFWs against Roxas’ presidential bid.
Roxas was unfazed by the threat saying he does not need the OFW vote to win the election. Of the 54 million voters registered for the 2016 national elections, about 2.4 million are OFWs who are allowed to participate in the election.
Simple logic tells us that if the OFWs are not for Roxas they could go to Duterte, Binay, Poe or Santiago.
By now, the Aquino campaign speech in Rome that shoved concerns of the OFWs to the sideline, could have already reverberated in the 180,000-strong Dilipino community in Italy and the millions of Pinoy overseas workers spread in many countries around the world and their relatives in the Philippines.
If Roxas earned a tsunami of condemnation from OFWs worldwide for saying he does not need their votes, we expect another crucifixion for the Aquino candidate, with OFWs reacting stronger this time coupling their anger with burial hymns for the Roxas presidential bid.
The over-all frustration at the Aquino speech was vocalized by Liza Bueno, among the OFWs who attended the event, a side event during Aquino’s state visit to the Vatican.
“I did not hear any agenda related to OFWs. I am not yet convinced that I should vote for Roxas,” she said in a report in Philippine Star.
As a leader, he should be fair, said Bueno referring to Aquino’s endorsement of Roxas and his verbal assaults against the rivals of his pet candidate.
In his speech, Aquino made a shallow attempt to hide his politicking by not naming Roxas or presidential candidates Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), independent candidate Senator Grace Poe and Senator Miriam Santiago.
“We dreamed and now our dreams came true. Are we going to hold back? We already have a companion who joined us and worked with us to transform our country, said Aquino clearly referring to Roxas.
“Why would we rely on those who only deliver promises? Aquino asked before dishing out verbal missiles at Roxas’ rivals.
No context, no plan, just criticism and half-baked promises, said Aquino of Poe. Poe has been leading in pre-poll surveys for presidential preference but his candidacy is imperiled by a disqualification case before the Commission on Election (Comelec) involving her questionable residency and citizenship.
He would kill many people if elected President, he blasted Duterte who is campaigning on an iron-fist anti-crime platform.
Aquino also said a candidate is accused of stealing people’s money alluding to Binay, who is facing corruption charges before the Ombudsman.
He also twitted Santiago who has been getting strong support in social media. “She is not aware that you cannot build roads or feed the hungry using only Facebook,” Aquino said.
Aquino’s caper that has drawn a critical chasm between the 2.4 million-strong OFWs and the Roxas presidential bid is the latest fumbling act that could further strengthen Roxas’ franchise over the bottom of poll surveys.
Roxas has consistenly dominated the cellar of all surveys by Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia.
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