Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday directed the military to prepare to evacuate thousands of Filipinos in Iran and Iraq if hostilities escalate in the Middle East.
Duterte issued the directive during an emergency meeting with defence, military and police officials, said Arsenio Andolong, spokesman for the Department of National Defence.
“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 United States and Iran rises,” Andolong said in a statement.
“The president tasked the armed forces 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,” he added.
There are currently 1,600 Filipinos in Iran and 6,000 in Iraq, Andolong said.
The death of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike has stoked fears of a new war in the Middle East.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has vowed to revenge Soleimani’s killing, while President Donald Trump warned that the U.S. would target 52 sites in the Islamic Republic if Tehran retaliates.