The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday raised the crisis alert level for Venezuela from 1 (precautionary phase) to 2 (restriction phase) because of the continuing violence between opposition groups and government troops.
This as the Palace said no Filipinos in Venezuela have been affected by the ongoing anti-government protest.
“So far, we have not gotten reports of any Filipino who has been injured, or at least involved in the mass actions, and hopefully, it stays that way,” Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said in a press conference.
In a statement, the department explained that alert level 2 is issued when “there are real threats to the life, security and property of Filipinos arising from internal disturbance or external threat.”
“Filipinos in the area are advised to limit non-essential movements, to avoid public places and to prepare for possible evacuation,” the DFA said.
Under alert level 2, the Department of Labor and Employment only allows overseas Filipino workers with existing contracts (balik-manggagawa) to return to their host country.
The Philippine Embassy in Mexico, which has jurisdiction over Venezuela, has already dispatched a consular officer to Caracas to provide on the ground assessment, to coordinate with the Philippine Honorary Consul General in Venezuela and to assist the estimated 104 Filipino nationals in that country.
The one month-long demonstration resulted in 20 deaths as protesters continue to call for the resignation of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and barricading several roads in the capital city of Caracas.
Reports said the demonstrations began as sporadic protests against chronic product shortages and inflation that reached 56 percent in 2013.
It then expanded into a nationwide movement when three people were killed after a scheduled protest on February 12.
This is said to be the worst unrest in Venezuela in the last decade.
Now, the protests are more focused on complaints on the excessive use of force in breaking up protests.
The protesters are also demanding the release of imprisoned activists including Leopoldo Lopez, the one who spearheaded the nationwide protests.
Valte expressed confidence that Filipinos in Venezuela will heed the calls of the Philippine government.
Our fellowmen usually follow the alert level being given by the DFA, especially, putting context into it, it was already expected,” Valte said.
When the DFA gets wind of any situation abroad that our Filipinos might run into, they already conduct a dialogue with community leaders there and warn them to be more careful in these kinds of situations,” she added.