Manila: The Philippine Navy has placed three of its ships on standby for possible evacuation of Filipinos as the threat of actual hostilities in the Korean peninsula becomes increasingly imminent.
A Gulf News source from the Philippine Navy said two logistic vessels and an escort ship had been placed on standby status for evacuation and humanitarian duties.
There are an estimated 40,000 Filipino workers in South Korea, most of them are employed in the industrial and services sectors.
According to the officer, who refused identification, the Navy will be hard pressed in the event the government orders an evacuation of Filipinos in South Korea. He said a mass departure from the peninsula would require multiple trips by ships across 2,600 kilometres of open sea.
“At the most our ships can accommodate only anywhere between 1,000 to 1,500, so this evacuation effort would really require multiple trips,” he told Gulf News in a text message.
Reports quoted Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic as saying that Navy Chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano had ordered several ships in the Philippine fleet on alert.
Coast Guard chief Rodolfo Isorena said they are ready to assist the navy and provide ships and manpower to aid in the evacuation efforts.
Meanwhile, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said Filipinos in South Korea early last week had been alerted for possible evacuation.
However, he clarified that the situation in the North Asian peninsula remains “normal and calm,” despite dire reports coming out in the international media.
He said evacuation alert level 1 is still being observed in the four step warning protocol observed by the DFA.
Alert level four means forced repatriation.
“There are no changes” in the alert level, Hernandez was quoted by the radio station, Radyo Inquirer.
As part of contingency plans for the evacuation and safety of Filipinos in South Korea, the Philippines Embassy had identified two evacuation centres-cun-exit points for them---the Gimhae International Airport and Busan Seaport which are both in Busan, South Korea.