PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte wants to set up a standby fund for the return of Filipino workers in the Middle East in case tensions escalate between the United States and Iran.

In a speech on Monday, Mr. Duerte said billions of pesos would be needed to rescue the workers, adding that he wanted a committee to manage the funds. “This has to cut across accounting rules,” he added.

The president said he might call for a special session where lawmakers could discuss measures to protect Filipino workers in the Middle East.

The Philippine Embassy in Iraq on Sunday advised Filipino workers there to go on leave after a US strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad’s international airport on Friday.

The Pentagon said Mr. Trump had ordered the killing after a pro-Iran mob laid siege on the US embassy.

Mr. Trump on Saturday threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Iran attacks Americans or US assets in retaliation.

There are 1,190 documented Filipinos in Iraq and 450 undocumented ones, according to the Foreign Affairs department.

Out of 2.3 Filipino workers overseas, 1.2 million are in the Middle East. — Gillian M. Cortez