DFA chief leaves Sunday to assess safety of Filipinos in Iraq

January 29, 2012 10:45 am 

By Faye P. Velasco

MANILA, Jan. 28 — Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario will travel to Iraq on Sunday to assess the security and safety of Filipino workers in light of the reported escalating violence there.

"We had expected some increase in violence after the U.S. forces pullout, but not to the extent that it has happened. It has been reported, for instance, that there have been 29 incidents of violence in the 15-day period from 1-15 January 2012, fourteen (14) of which were in Baghdad. As recently as January 24, four car bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing 14 people and wounding 75," Del Rosario said.

Although there were nearly 4,000 Filipinos secured by U.S. military, the U.S. troops' pullout on December 18, 2011 has significantly reduced the number of Filipinos in Iraq and has also resulted in a diminution of their security.

"In addition, we further believe that there may be undocumented Filipinos working as household service workers and we are, therefore, fully committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all our countrymen in Iraq," the DFA head added.

"After the U.S. pullout, the challenge is to find out how many Filipinos are left there, where they are, and the quality of their security. We believe that their security may have become questionable and we may need to take them out of harm's way. Our final objective is to undertake a security assessment. We may have to declare a crisis level that would require repatriation," Del Rosario said.

"The resumption in the operations of the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad is enabling us to make on-the-ground assessment," he stressed.

The secretary is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Baghdad.

"We will convey our position and request the Iraqi government to help us protect our nationals," said Del Rosario.

He will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr., and Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Middle East And African Affairs Petronila Garcia. (PNA)

scs/FPV

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