PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will back the United States in case Filipinos based in the Middle East are harmed amid the escalating tension between the US and Iran, Malacañang said yesterday .
Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement a day after the President and his Cabinet discussed the developments in the Middle East and plans to repatriate Filipinos there in the event of a military warfare between the US and Iran. Tension between the US and Iran have heightened following the US killing of a top Iranian military commander.
“Hindi tayo magiging neutral. The President was very specific in saying last night that if the Filipinos are harmed, he will side with the Americans,” Panelo said at a news conference.
“The President will not sit idly and watch,” he added.
With this, Panelo said Duterte directed Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mamao to go to Iran and Iraq to deliver the President’s “friendly caution” to the Iranian and Iraqi governments that no Filipinos should be harmed in the course of the conflict.
Duterte directed some Cabinet members on Monday to craft measures for the repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East amid the escalating tension between the US and Iran.
He gave the order during the 45th Cabinet meeting in Malacañang where he articulated anew his concern over the security of Filipinos in the Middle East, according to his spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday.
The committee is composed of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
Duterte also tasked Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to fly to the Middle East immediately to establish coordination with the host countries and lay the groundwork for the evacuation.
Since he assumed office in 2016, the President has been cozying up to China while launching a series of tirades against the US, whose previous government under Barack Obama had raised human rights complaints linked to the Philippines’ war on drugs.
Duterte once alluded to severing relations with the US, under Obama, and threatened to scale back defense ties for its criticisms of the anti-narcotics campaign.
The US is the Philippines’ lone treaty ally.