• DFA raises alert level 2 in Iraq’s Kurdistan region

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    The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday raised crisis alert level 2 in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which had remained relatively safe from the strife-torn capital of Baghdad.

    Charles Jose, the department’s spokesman, said level 2 was raised because of the “growing security threats in and around Kurdistan.”

    Level 2 is the restriction phase, meaning Filipinos in the area must restrict their movement and avoid places of protests.

    The Kurdistan region was previously under crisis alert level 1 while the rest of Iraq is under crisis alert level 4 or mandatory repatriation.

    “Filipinos in Kurdistan are asked to restrict non-essential movements, avoid public places and take extra precautions,” Jose said.

    A partial deployment ban and the restriction of the hiring of new workers to Iraq were also enforced by the department.

    Jose said the agency will continue to monitor the security and political developments in the country.

    Iraq is home to some 900 Filipinos, 152 of whom were working in the Green Zone, a 10-kilometer area in Baghdad’s central district where most foreign companies and organizations are.

    Jose said Filipinos in Iraq on June 18 were briefed by embassy officials there that the raising of level 2 in Kurdistan region is meant for their safety.

    Out of the 152 Filipinos in the Green Zone area, only two availed of the repatriation program. These two will leave Baghdad on June 24.

    Jose again called on Filipinos there to avail of the Philippine government’s repatriation program.

    Meanwhile, another group of 74 Filipinos were scheduled to arrive from conflict-torn Libya on Monday, bringing to 231 the total number Filipino workers evacuated by the Philippine government from the troubled North African state.

    The 74 will arrive in two batches, Jose said. The first group consists of 67 Filipinos and they will arrive at 4:35 pm via flight EK 332 and the remaining seven at 10:10 p.m. via flight EK 334.

    He said 348 more Filipinos in Libya are scheduled for repatriation to the Philippines. They will return home as soon as they get their exit permits.

    Manila maintains crisis alert level 3 in Libya, meaning Filipinos there are advised to avail of voluntary repatriation in view of escalating tensions.

    “We continue to call on our nationals in Libya to get in touch with our embassy in Tripoli and to avail of the repatriation offer,” Jose said.

    The Philippine government shoulders the travel expenses of the Filipinos should their employers refuse to let them leave and decline to pay for their repatriation.

    BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON AND PNA

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