PH maintains ‘strategic silence’ over Syria massacre

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Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines is not joining other United Nations member countries in condemning the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the massacre of more than 100 civilians in the strife-torn Middle Eastern country, according to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

Instead, Manila is “maintaining strategic silence on the situation in Syria as we are focused on the safety and welfare of several thousands of our people that remain there,” Del Rosario told the Inquirer on Thursday.

A number of countries, including the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, have expelled Syrian diplomats in a coordinated move against Assad.

In a text message to the Inquirer, Del Rosario said the Philippines need not do the same. He noted that there were no Syrian diplomats in the country as Syria did not maintain an embassy here.

Earlier, Del Rosario said that unlike the US Embassy in Damascus, the Philippine mission would remain “as long as we have overseas Filipino workers there that need help.”

Majority of the remaining 8,000-plus OFWs in Syria have ignored the government’s offer of repatriation, prompting the DFA to intensify its efforts to reach out to them and try to convince them to leave the country.

Del Rosario described the repatriation of Filipinos in Syria as a “work in progress.”

Two more OFWs were scheduled to be repatriated by the government on Thursday, bringing to 1,567 the number of Philippine nationals evacuated by the DFA from Syria.

According to the foreign office, more OFWs are “set to come home as hostilities continue to grip the Middle East nation.”

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