PH readies contingency plan for Filipinos in South Korea

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South Korean K-1 tanks move over a temporary bridge during a river-crossing military drill in Hwacheon near the border with North Korea on April 1, 2013. AFP

MANILA, Philippines—It continues to be “business as usual” in South Korea despite a declaration of war by North Korea, but the Philippines has readied a contingency plan for its nationals in case the situation worsens, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesman, said the Philippine Embassy in Seoul had long put in place a step-by-step plan to protect the 40,000 or so Filipinos on the Korean Peninsula in the event tensions between North and South exploded.

For now, he said the embassy has started reminding Filipinos to be vigilant and keep abreast of developments through various media.

“For now, the reports from our embassy are that it is business as usual and life proceeds normally in South Korea. But our embassy is ready for any eventuality and that’s why it has asked our people to be alert and be ready if there is a need to upgrade the alert levels,” said Hernandez in a press briefing on Monday.

“What I can say is that all things that should be prepared have been prepared and all the embassy has to do is to make sure that the triggers are there in order,” he added.

Malacañang said the government would consider all options should hostilities erupt, including flying 40,000 Filipinos out of South Korea by commercial vessels.

“One of the options is to employ commercial vessels. You have seen that in the case of our evacuations in Libya, Syria and also earlier in Lebanon,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said. She deferred to foreign affairs officials for the “finer details.”

Senator Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said she welcomed the activation by the DFA of contingency plans for Filipinos.

“I hope that the appropriate means to deliver them to safety should the situation arise are available.  We cannot wait for the situation to worsen before the details of our contingency plan are firmed up — from activation of emergency area coordinators, conducting resource inventory, designating holding areas, and identification of safe evacuation routes,” Legarda stressed.

“The uncertainties and dangers exist.  All these could lead to regional instability and erode the progress realized by countries in the region, including the Philippines.  It is hoped that restraint and greater sense of responsibility to regional and world peace will reign over rising tensions in the region,” she said.

The Department of Labor, meanwhile, said that as of Monday, it saw no need to impose a deployment ban on Filipinos going to South Korea.

“There is no deployment ban and as of now we see no serious problem,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said, adding that the government would continue to deploy highly skilled overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to South Korea.

Quoting Philippine labor officials in South Korea, Baldoz said Filipino communities there have remained calm despite the growing tension in the area brought by the declaration of war by North Korea.

But she said Filipinos have been advised to be always prepared in case of evacuation.

Currently, the embassy is at alert level 1 – the lowest of four levels – which calls for heightened vigilance by Filipinos of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. This alert level was raised in 2010 and 2011 amid similar tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Under this alert, the embassy closely monitors the situation in coordination with South Korean authorities, US forces and the United Nations command in the country.

In the event of an escalation, Hernandez said, the embassy would determine the next alert level to be raised: Level 2 which restricts the movements of Filipinos; level 3, which means a need to relocate from areas at risk, and level 4, which initiates mandatory evacuation.

The DFA has identified the cities of Daegu and Gimhae in the southern part of South Korea as rendezvous points for Filipinos in the event mandatory repatriation is placed in effect. There, Philippine consular officers will arrange for their flights home.

Hernandez said this protocol had long been in place and was constantly being reviewed and updated in the face of the new threats.

“The embassy is also in close contact with Filipino community leaders as part of efforts to refine the contingency plan, including firming up evacuation sites in [South Korea],” said Hernandez.

He said that some 40,000 Filipinos – professionals, skilled and semi-skilled workers – lived in South Korea, while between five and seven were known to be in North Korea.

Hernandez said the DFA had “not had a chance to actually verify” if the few Filipinos known to be working for nongovernment organizations in North Korea had left the reclusive state.

Filipinos who wish to return home from South Korea at this time will have to shoulder their own expenses as the Philippine government only pays for air travel under a level 4 alert.

The DFA also has yet to issue a travel advisory on South Korea, and trips into the country for business and tourism are still allowed.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • BatangSingapore

    dito mo makikita sino ang nagmamahal sa kanyang bansa. kita mo ang north korea kahit mahirap ay lalaban para sa sinusulong nilang interest at panunupil. samantalang ang pilipinas ay puros palusot at kabaklaan lang ang alam hahahahhaha.

    • jay_aaa

      saan mo na ba naipakita ang katapangan at pagmamahal sa mo bansa? Dito pa lang kita na isa kang talangka sa bayan mo.

      • BatangSingapore

        nagtalinghaga ka pa pero wala naman sustansya sinabi mo. sabihin mo sa presidente mo abnoy bakla sya ha.

      • jay_aaa

        hehe..ayan.hanggang ganyan ka lang..puro puna wala naman magawa, puro pagmamagaling wala naman silbi.

        “kahit mahirap ay lalaban para sa sinusulong nilang interest at panunupil”

        – haha! uyy..makata daw xa kuno..galing galing naman..

      • BatangSingapore

        ikaw ba yan abnoy?

    • joshmale2004

      Sino ba ang nagmamahl at tumutulong sa NK? Dahil sa katapangan nila China at Russia lang. Ang SK, lahat ng bansa kaibigan kaya compare mo naman kaginhawaan ng mga mamamayan nila kung sino mas nakakaangat.

      • BatangSingapore

        ano koneksyon nyan sinabi mo sa post ko.

    • jay_aaa

      ..ano nga ulit ang kagalingan mo sa buhay? baka mapakinabangan…hehe

  • speaksoftlylove

    The situation is getting serious. Just today the US deployed USS McCain, a destroyer, and a sea based radar system, as big as an oil rig, near the coast of North Korea. This was after the fly by of B 52 bombers, followed by trhe deployment of F 22 raptor fighter jets. The US would not have done this if the threat of North Korea are just empty rhetorics.

    Personally, I am not concerned about North Korea. My apprehension is against China and Russia. It would seem that the escalating events were already by the designs of the powers that be since last year. Be it know that the US suddenly shifted the focus of their military strategy to the Pacific and I guess it was in answer to China’s rapid development of their naval arsenal, Lately, Russia suddenly conducted their own naval exercise since the last one which has bee a very long time. Connect the dots and given that China and Russia are allies of North Kore4a, this war will be messy.

    • joshmale2004

      You observation is correct. I have the same inkling too that USA is trying actually to provoke NK to do some sort of action or mistake (especially they have a kid leader Kim) in order for them to take a big counter action and destroy the nuclear capability of NK as it’s just a matter of time now for NK to fully develop its nuclear production capability. Once NK achieve this, USA knows China can already deploy and claim all of China Sea and all disputed islands unchallenged with NK and Russia in support and their buffer from threats from East and Russia from South West.
      In other international news, if war breaks out in Korea, Britain and Australia are covertly willing to back up USA.

  • jHdz

    government has plans to evacuate pinoys in SK but what about the 5000 countrymen in Sabah?

    • headhunter

      Correction

      There are at least one million of your nationals in Malaysia.

      Should they swim over to Tawi Tawi?

      • jHdz

        seems you didn’t get my point. my post is just referring to the selective implementation of the function of the Philippine government to the overseas migrant workers. Korean impending or anticipated war should be the least of the Philippine government’s problem because the rants of north korea seems to be a bluff that the current administration is riding on just for publicity. and why would you want our nationals working in your economy to swim to tawi tawi? malaysian and filipino civilians are currently caught in a crossfire on the sabah issue that needs to be addressed immediately because displacements and deaths that are occurring NOW.

      • headhunter

        I refer to your queston “what about the 5000 countrymen in Sabah?” Maybe I had misinterpreted you but in my mind you were quoting 5,000 as the no. of your countrymen in Sabah – which can’t be true as there are more. Or perhaps you are talking about the 5,000 who had left Sabah.

        Your Gov’t had offered to ferry Filipinos from Sabah but Malaysia had refused to allow your navy ships to come in because we are afraid the wanted terrorists would escape in the process. However there are many small boats and many Filipinos still could leave Sabah. Swimming is out of the question.

      • jHdz

        there are misconceptions that you really need to be clarified. your reactions to other posts on anything related to Sabah will always be contestable if you’re talking to a Filipino. and you branding them as wanted terrorist is one point of contention. i have malaysian friends and we agree that this Sabah issue has been falsely mishandled by the political leaders of both ends…. we agree without branding any players of this Sabah issue any derogatory word nor claiming that this one belongs to whose country. why? this will still remain unresolved unless each political economy’s leaders sit down and discuss it with diplomacy without any ulterior or personal motives.

        your context is that the filipinos in Sabah are terrorist and they are escaping… so kill or detain them… then you’re saying that Filipinos in your country should swim to Tawi-tawi.

        It is easy to claim that our government are sending boats… or not because the media says so… OTOH… you seem to be looking for any Filipino who is discussing the Sabah issue in the internet and your previous posts through DISCUS attest to that. nonetheless, my post is a critique on how our governments leaders are mishandling all international issues… neither Sabah in particular… nor Malaysia.

      • headhunter

        Points taken. At the same time I wish to correct my suggestion on the swimming part – I don’t blame you if you find it is offensive. I had meant the remark as provocation as well as a joke – depending on your state of mind. For example, some people can joke about swimming all the way from China to come to Malaysia. But in this case I admit it is rather insensitve, I apologise.

        I also didn’t mean to say that all Filipinos in Malaysia are terrorists. However, even if you disagree, the militants who are fighting or had fought with our police and soldiers are terrorists; to many of us Malaysians.

        Agreed that until such time that the Sabah dispute is settled properly, each side should refrain from saying the unneccessary. While I agree with this, I cannot accept the very biased and prejudised views toward us Malaysians. You should read what your fellow Filipinos had written and they are far insensitive and aggressive.

        Even the claim on Sabah, in such discussions almost all Filipinos fail to understad that the claim only involved 50% of Sabah [Territory in 1878 agreement – Pandassan River on the north west coast to Sibuco River in the south].

        The prejudice and bias by Filipino commenters toward Malaysia are extreme. Maybe Mr Jetthro, you are different and believe me, I do appreciate such a rational person.

        Hope that partly answered why people like me ended up countering many comments by Filipinos here in the Inquirer. I came here by accident. There was one very biased report published in one of our online news portals which quoted the Inquirer as the source.

        I can leave the forum anytime; maybe now I had contributed enough in certain sense. After all many of my postings are rubbish and was just fooling around.

        FYI, I too have many Filipino friends.

      • jHdz

        it is the media that adds insults to injury my friend. and we citizens are just reactionary to what media will inform us… whether it is true or unfounded. we are members of the ASEAN…. if we’d fight out any issue in the media we citizens of both countries will loose whatever goodness we’ve started at the ASEAN table… and the friendships that each citizens of our country has established.

  • CaleeJ

    I hope that our government would take care of our fellow filipinos working overseas, and i want to thank Senator Loren Legarda for pointing this out. I hope this will end and i hope for the safety of fellow countrymen in South Korea.

    • HirayaManawari

      yeah i agree with you, but knowing loren legarda,im sure she’ll do everything to help and resolve this matter.

      • KateDula

        kahit ako naniniwalang maayos din yan sa tulong ng ating gobyerno..

  • NelsonBagatsing

    Im sure our government is doing everything that they can to help filipinos in south korea.

    • TinaPaner

      onga sana naman, kawawa naman ang mga kababayan natin dun kung sakalng may mangyarai, maburti at natutukan ni Senator loren legarda ang bagay na to.

  • John John

    Plan is good,but has the Philippines have enough assets & resources to implement it?

    chartering commercial flights can work in smaller scale,but surely not the same for transporting tens of thousands of people.Costs will be prohibitive.

  • joerizal

    What’s the contingency plan for when they get to the Philippines and find that they can’t get any job?

  • joboni96

    go to the southern ports
    then board philippine bound ships

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