THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Sunday said there is no set repatriation yet for about 380 Filipinos in Ukraine despite a serious threat of Russian invasion, but assured its overseas offices are ready to take action.
“Each foreign service post has contingency plans for emergencies,” said Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Martin R. Meñez in a WhatsApp message to BusinessWorld.
“Warsaw PE (Philippine Embassy) is in a state of readiness but there are levels of emergency, and mandatory repatriation level has not been called yet,” he said.
The Philippines also has an honorary consulate general in Kyiv, which is supervised by the embassy in Moscow, according to the DFA website.
“And even if called (mandatory repatriation), we cannot force Filipinos to leave. If you recall recent events in Afghanistan, there were Filipinos who decided not to leave even at the height of emergency,” he added.
After the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in Aug. 2021 soon after the withdrawal of United States forces, around 20 Filipinos chose to stay in the country for work while close to 200 were repatriated.
On the Ukraine situation, the US State Department has ordered most of its embassy staff to leave while the Pentagon said it was withdrawing about 150 military trainers. US President Joseph R. Biden has also called on American citizens in Ukraine to immediately leave.
Australia said on Sunday it was evacuating its embassy in Kyiv, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling on China to speak up for Ukraine and not remain “chillingly silent” as Russia massed military forces on its border.
Several other states, including Belgium, Kuwait, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, and Italy, have also urged their citizens to leave Ukraine unless staying was absolutely necessary.
Mr. Meñez said they have yet to receive requests for repatriation among members of the Filipino community in Ukraine.
“I don’t think the Filipinos have requested to return to (the) Philippines yet, and as far as I am aware, borders and transport are open if they wish to do so now,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Cultural Diplomacy Gonar B. Musor, in a statement on Saturday, said most Filipinos in Ukraine are in Kyiv and surrounding areas, and are “therefore located far from the eastern border near Russia.”
Nonetheless, Philippine diplomats have called on Filipinos to “report any untoward incident they might observe in their respective areas, and continue monitoring their Filipino friends through social media.”
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, Sr., who chairs the Senate Defense and Security committee, said the government should prepare safety nets to protect the country from a possible economic fallout due to Russia’s “imminent invasion of Ukraine.”
“An invasion of Ukraine may adversely affect the stock markets all over the world. Prices of basic commodities and fuel may increase. We need to be prepared for this, not to mention that we are still suffering from the pandemic and are far from economic recovery,” he said in a statement on Sunday. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan with Reuters