“We are urging the DFA to consider issuing a necessary and timely precautionary advisory to all Filipinos living and working in Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A Filipino migrants group has called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to issue an Alert Level 1 as a precautionary advisory to all Filipinos working and living in Saudi Arabia and in Iran as tension between the two countries continues to escalate.
The rift between the two countries began with the execution of Iran’s prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, along with 46 others. Iranian protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. As of this writing, Saudi has already cut off its diplomatic relations with Iran.
“We are urging the DFA to consider issuing a necessary and timely precautionary advisory to all Filipinos living and working in Saudi Arabia and Iran,” John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said.
Citing a news report, Monterona said a bus was burned down in Qatif, located in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia. He said that while no one has been hurt in the incident, this must be taken seriously not just by Saudi authorities but the Philippine government through the DFA as well.
In an interview, Monterona, who is based in Riyadh, said his fellow Filipino migrant workers are anxious, but remain vigilant in their surroundings.
“They are calm but they cannot help but be anxious because the internal peace and order may worsen. There are millions of OFWs here,” he told Bulatlat.com.
The DFA, through its spokesperson Charles Jose, said it is prepared to repatriate OFWs from Saudi Arabia as in the past. But Monterona looked askance at the DFA statement, because the Philippine government has failed to successfully repatriate hundreds of OFWs in Syria.
For now, Monterona said that as a personal precaution, he has confined and limited his daily grind away from crowded places such as malls, market places, and the mosques. Their organization Migrante International has also refrained from big gatherings for the meantime.
There are currently 800,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia and 4,000 in Iran, according to the DFA. But Migrante International’s estimate is higher – about 1.2 million OFWs in Saudi Arabia, which includes undocumented Filipino migrant workers there.