AFP ready to use air, naval assets to evacuate Filipinos in Iraq, Iran
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is ready deploy air and naval assets to evacuate Filipinos in Iraq and Iran if the tension in the area rises.
Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. AFP Chief of Staff, said President Rodrigo Duterte directed the military during the emergency meeting in Malacanang on Sunday to prepare its assets to bring home Filipinos from middle east.
"The president directed us. He is very concerend with the safety of the Filipinos in Iran and Iraq. We have 1,600 in Iran, mostly married to Iranians and we have almost 6,000 sa Iraq," Santos told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo on Monday.
"He directed us to prepare and be ready to deploy our assets anytime to evacuate our Filipino countrymen in that area," he added.
Santos said during the meeting the military presented their plan on how they will evacuate Filipinos from the Middle East.
"We also showed to the president our plans, on what assets we will use, the capacity, all the nitty gritty of the plans and also we are improving our plans not only on Iran and Iraq but also to the whole Middle East," he said.
"We don't know it might spread to our countries especially if you will know the history of the war. It might go to Israel. There (is a) probability. There are probabilities like that and we are improving our plans just to cover everything just in case. But right now we are ready to deploy anytime when the indicators shows and the decision of the government for us to deploy, we will deploy immediately," he added.
Santos said if the military will be given the go-signal it will send its C130 aircraft and frigates to evacuate Filipinos.
"The indicators will be determined by, national government, and go-signal is from them, especially with the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) with all the inputs. The immediate, assets that we will use is of course our available air assets, the C130s and our naval assets available. Our new frigate that can travel in that area," he said.
Amid the conflict in Middle East following the killing of an Iranian general, Santos said the military is also monitoring possible retaliatory attacks from the terrorist groups in the country.
"Number one is of course is our monitoring with our defense attache present in nearby countries. Number two is to monitor, intensify our intelligence monitoring on the groups, on the local terrorist group here that might express sympathy to the Iranian cause but as of now none is affiliated to Iran," he said.
"The affiliates, just like the ISIS the terrorism, as of now we have not monitored anything but we will continue monitoring and of course we are looking at the possible targets of Iranian on other countries and to our country. What are the probable retalition they can do but as of now... we are always on the alert especially in our intelligence gathering," he added. Robina Asido/DMS