FOREIGN AFFAIRS Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. on Wednesday said an evacuation plan for Filipinos in Ukraine is already in motion and assured that he himself is on top of preparations as the threat of a Russian invasion remains high despite diplomatic efforts. 

“Rest assured Filipinos in Ukraine will come to no harm; I will be on top of it personally,” Mr. Locsin said in a tweet, noting that he was already making calls for the pull-out arrangements.

He said they are looking at various options among Ukraine’s neighboring countries. 

“It will be a land journey to the closest border; I expect the Americans to keep watch as they did and more discreetly in Libyan evacuations and rescues. This is when we know who are our friends and who are just crybabies,” he said. 

“I just physically mobilized myself and the rest of our relaxed foreign posts in EU (European Union) to taking 140 Filipinos in Kyiv to safety through the closest and safest exit. Reaching out now to Kursk and Belgograd east — the nearest, and to farther away Hungary, Romania, Slovakia,” he added.

There are currently around 380 Filipinos in Ukraine, including immigrants and workers.

Mr. Locsin is currently in Cambodia for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers meeting which will conclude in two days. He will head to Paris on Feb. 19 for the ASEAN-EU meetings.

France, he said, is “close enough to Ukraine to effect their safe passage out.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement on Tuesday that it is currently in close communication with its foreign service posts in Ukraine to repatriate Filipinos who wish to return to the Philippines. 

“The situation at Ukraine’s border remains fluid, and security conditions could change at any moment,” it said.  

“The DFA has been in discussions with the Filipino community, as well as with other governments and international partners regarding Filipino nationals who wish to relocate to more secure areas.”

Shirley Santosildes, head of United Filipino Global Ukraine, said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday that at least eight Filipinos have already signed up for the government’s free repatriation offer, with the first flight scheduled to depart on Feb. 17.

Russia has deployed at least 100,000 soldiers close to the Ukrainian border, but Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains there are no plans of an invasion and that the troops are already returning to their base after completing military exercises. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan