Secretary of Foreign Affairs del Rosario to visit Iraq on Sunday

A January 27, 2012 press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario will travel to Iraq on Sunday, January 29, to assess the security and safety of Filipinos in the country in light of the reported escalating violence there.

“We had expected some increase in violence after the U.S. Forces pull out,  but not to the extent that it has happened. It has been reported, for instance, that there have been 29 incidents of violence in the 15-day period from 1 to 15 January 2012, 14 of which were in Baghdad. As recently as January 24th, four car bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing 14 people and wounding 75,” said Secretary del Rosario, who is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Baghdad.

Although there were nearly 4,000 Filipinos secured by U.S. military, the U.S. troop pull out on December 18, 2011 has significantly reduced the number of Filipinos in Iraq and has also resulted in a diminution of their security.

“In addition, we further believe that there may  be undocumented Filipinos working as household service workers  and we are, therefore, fully committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all our countrymen in Iraq,” he added.

“After the U.S. pull out, the challenge is to find out how many Filipinos are left, where they are, and the quality of their security,” he said. “We believe that their security may have become questionable and we may need to take them out of harm’s way.”

“Our final objective is to undertake a security assessment. We may have to declare a crisis level that would require repatriation.”

“The resumption in the operations of the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad is enabling us to make on-the-ground assessment,” he said. “We will convey  our position and request the Iraqi Government to help us protect our nationals.”

Secretary del Rosario will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Esteban Conejos, Jr., and Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Petronila Garcia.