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Sun 5 Jan 2020 05:58 PM

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Duterte orders air, naval forces to be on standby to evacuate Filipino workers

1,600 overseas Filipino workers are in Iran, with 6,000 in Iraq, a spokesperson said

Duterte orders air, naval forces to be on standby to evacuate Filipino workers

President of the Philippines Rodrigo R. Duterte

President of the Philippines Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the country’s air and naval forced to be on alert in case rising tensions between the United States and Iran mean Filipino workers in the Middle East need to be evacuated from the region.

On Friday, the US conducted a strike against a vehicle convoy in Baghdad and the Pentagon confirmed the death of Qasem Soleimani, Commander of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force and Abu Mehdi Muhandis.

While Tehran’s leaders have vowed to retaliate, President Donald Trump on Saturday warned the US will hit Iran "very fast and very hard" if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets.

"The President has tasked the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] 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," Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong told reporters in Manila on Sunday, according to a report by the official state-backed Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The announcement came following a meeting of the country’s senior army, navy, and air force commanders on Sunday afternoon.

"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 was quoted as saying.