PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte has taken back his request for Congress to call for a special session to discuss the Middle East crisis in view of the de-escalating tension between the United States and Iran, according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo. “With respect to the Middle East, since there has been de-escalation of the conflict there, I suppose that is the reason why the President did not pursue with his request or call Congress to special session,” he said. The President requested lawmakers to conduct the hearing earlier this month after the US killed an Iranian general and Iran responded by launching an airstrike against a US base in Iraq. He has since directed government agencies to prepare for the repatriation of Filipinos working in the Middle East.
On Tuesday, Mr. Duterte rallied soldiers to “safeguard the lives of the Filipinos” as he sent off two Philippine Navy ships to the Middle East. “This is a sacred mission and it is really to safeguard the lives of the Filipino people. I tasked you this duty with a prayer and with a hope that you will carry out your mission successfully and that everybody will be safe,” he said. Navy ships BRP Davao del Sur and BRP Ramon Alcaraz are being deployed to the Middle East to assist in the repatriation of Filipinos. Last week, Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipinos Abdullah Mamao and Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, the government’s Middle East envoys, flew to the region to lead the repatriation efforts. — Gillian M. Cortez