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No ban on Saudi travel, deployment

Mayen Jaymalin, Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The government does not intend to impose a travel or deployment ban to Saudi Arabia and Iran amid the tension between the two countries.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose yesterday said the DFA is monitoring developments, particularly the relations between the two countries.

“We have no plans at this time to raise an alert level or implement repatriation or impose travel or deployment ban,” Jose said. 

The execution by Saudi Arabia of Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, alongside 46 mostly Sunni extremist convicts as announced by Saudi’s Interior Ministry, sparked anger in Iran and raised alarm about growing hostilities.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties with Shi’ite-dominated Iran after protesters attacked its embassy in Tehran.

Jose said the Philippines has a strong interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Middle East.

“We have many OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in the Middle East so we want peace and stability in the Middle East,” he said.

There are about 2,489,430 OFWs in the Middle East, 1,028,802 of them in  Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and 4,876 in Iran as of December 2013, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

No signal yet

There is no “signal” yet to stop the deployment of Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“We follow the alert signal from the Department of Foreign Affairs on whether to ban deployment and repatriate Filipino workers. So far there is no signal yet,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said yesterday.

A group of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia also reported that Saudi’s cutting of ties with Iran has no adverse impact on them at this time.

Migrante regional coordinate John Leonard Monterona said there were sporadic but peaceful demonstrations in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia.

Monterona added that Saudi authorities do not consider the demonstrations as a security threat.

“We are praying that it will not escalate and thus the more than one million OFWs will not be affected,” he said.

Fearful

Monterona said OFWs in Saudi Arabia are apprehensive but vigilant amid the perceived volatile situation due to the political rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

He urged OFWs in Saudi Arabia to shun activities that could be perceived as acts of terrorism.

Monterona also called on embassy officials and the DFA to validate reports that four Filipinos were arrested on suspicion of being terrorists.

He said the government should be ready with its evacuation and emergency plans.

Contingency plans

The DOLE said the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) and the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia are closely monitoring the situation and preparing for implementation of contingency measures.

Early last year, the DOLE created a crisis management team to ensure the protection of Filipino workers from security threats and political tensions in various host countries in the Middle East.

The POLOs are required to review and update the contingency plans to ensure the safety and protection of OFWs in case there would be a need for evacuation and repatriation.

Complete picture

Meanwhile, the Saudi government asked the Philippine media yesterday to give the complete picture in presenting the attacks on its embassy and consulate general in Iran, saying the acts constitute blatant violations against all norms and treaties. 

The Saudi government feels strong indignation, discontentment and condemnation against the attacks, the Saudi embassy said.

“The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls the attention of the Philippine media… to disseminate this denunciation to the Filipino readers as well as issue frank and strong condemnation against such abhorrent conduct that should not be ignored or keep silent about,” the embassy said in a statement. 

The attacks are contrary to the international principle of conduct, international norms and treaties that guarantee sanctity, safety and security of foreign diplomatic and consular missions and their personnel and staff in the host countries, it added.

ACIRC

ARABIA

CHARLES JOSE

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

MIDDLE EAST

MONTERONA

SAUDI

SAUDI ARABIA

SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAN

STRONG

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