(JANUARY 14, 2020) – The Philippines on Tuesday deployed to the Middle East two Navy ships to bring home about 6,000 overseas Filipino workers in Iraq even in tension between the US and Iran has simmer down.
Navy Chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said BRP Davao del Sur, a Landing Platform Dick (LPD) which can carry up to 500 passengers, and an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), BRP Ramon Alcaraz, were dispatched from Manila to the Persian Gulf by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Their main mission, based on the guidance of the President, is to bring back the affected Filipino people from the Middle East,” said Empedrad.
The government has ordered a mandatory repatriation of about 6,000 Filipinos in Iraq after a conflict brew in the Middle East after the US killed a Iranian general in a drone attack.
Iran retaliated bu firing a barrage of missiles in US positions in Iraq.
Tensions had died down.
Empedrad said the ships are manned by about 130 crew members each.
Additionally, about 100 elite Navy personnel, and medical and repair teams are also onboard the ships.
He said the contingent has only one instruction: “Safety of the crew and ship is always paramount.”
Empedrad said he could not immediately say the specific destination in the Middle East of the ships and personnel.
“Based on the initial (plan), I think the two ships will go somewhere lower (Iran and Iraq)…We are still discussing the best port that the ships will be initially docked when they arrive Middle East,” he said.
He said it may take 16 to 22 days for the ships and personnel to reach their destination.
The foreign affairs department is still working on the ships’ diplomatic clearance, said Empedrad.
“We’re still coordination,” he said. “It wil take time. Anyway, our voyage will take about two weeks before we reach there. We have a many friendly nations that will help us.”
Three Air Force aircraft are on standby, and are ready to fly to Middle East, if given the go signal.