Manila: President Benigno Aquino has ordered line agencies to bring home safely some 40,000 overseas Filipino workers in South Korea and seven other OFWs in North Korea if tensions on the Korean peninsula escalate, senior officials and sources said.
Aquino called on the foreign affairs department to coordinate closely with all OFW communities in South Korea, said Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, adding that Aquino is being briefed minute to minute on developments on the tense situation on the peninsula.
Discussions on the Korean peninsula were held in a “newly established war-room at the presidential palace,” a source told Gulf News.
“The Philippine embassy in South Korea has started coordinating with the Filipino community leaders on steps to be taken pertinent to the situation on the Korean peninsula,” Lacierda said.
They are following the contingency plan that was drafted by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) for the evacuation of OFWs from South Korea, said Secretary Sonny Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“We maintain a posture of vigilance and adherence to diplomatic modes of conflict resolution,” Coloma said.
“Our embassy [in South Korea] is prepared. We have a contingency plan for the safety of our fellow men in case an evacuation becomes necessary in South Korea,” Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, spokesman of the foreign affairs office, said in a radio interview.
The OFWs in South Korea will be brought to Busan before being repatriated to the Philippines if the situation on the Korean peninsula worsens, said Hernandez.
He also expressed concern over seven other OFWs working in non-governmental organisations in North Korea, but did not say how they would be saved.
Alert level one
In this light, the Philippine government has coordinated with the United Nations and the United States embassy in South Korea, said Hernandez.
To guide Philippine government officials on how to act regarding the situation on the peninsula, Hernandez said Manila had already raised alert level one in South Korea,
“This could be raised higher depending on the advisory of the South Korean government,” said Hernandez.
The Philippines’ defence department was also ordered to watch developments on the Korean peninsula.
Some nine million OFWs are based worldwide, making them vulnerable in countries with political unrest.
Earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to retaliate without any notice against the US and South Korea.
A recent US-South Korean war games that involved two US B-2 bombers had angered him.
Last March 8, a resolution of the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear test in February.