DFA Secretary’s Visit to Iraq
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert Del Rosario, visted Iraq on January 29 to meet with Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in order to look into the state of the Filipinos in the country. Recently, there had been reports of increasing violence (i.e., bombings) in Baghdad, capital of Iraq, after the withdrawal of the US forces in the country last 18 December 2011.
According to the DFA, The Foreign Affairs Secretary will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Esteban Conejos, Jr., Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Petronila Garcia, Embassy Charge d’Affaires a.i. Marlowe Miranda, and Labor Attache Angel Borja.
“We had expected some increase in violence after the US Forces pull out, but not to the extent that it has happened. It has been reported, for instance, that there have been 29 incidents of violence in the 15-day period from 1-15 January 2012, fourteen of which were in Baghdad. As recently as January 24th, four car bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing 14 people and wounding 75.”, The Secretary said in a statement.
After the US forces withdrawal, it was reported that the number of Filipinos in Iraq had significantly reduced. Nevertheless, the Secretary stated that there may still be undocumented Filipinos working in the household sector. He also stated that the foreign office will ensure the safety, welfare, as well as the quality of security of the Filipinos in Iraq will be upheld.
The Foreign Office indicated that there is a number of “279 Filipinos registered in the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad and 192 in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region, a part of Iraq that has remained peaceful.”
Since the DFA had been concerned regarding the recent violence in Baghdad, Secretary Albert del Rosario informed Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari that the Philippines intend to raise the alert level of Iraq (excluding Kurdistan) to 3. This may possibly offer voluntary repatriation to the Filipinos.
In a statement by Secretary Del Rosario on the conclusion of his visit, his counterpart assured him that the Iraqi Government will offer all the assistance in order to secure and protect the Filipinos.
Aside from the aforementioned issue, the Foreign Secretary also used the opportunity to discuss the enhancement of the fortunately existing bilateral cooperation between the two countries in terms of economic and social issues.
It has also been mentioned that the Foreign Minister has agreed to visit the Philippines in the second quarter of the year for the 6th Philippine-Iraq Consultative Meeting.
“The Secretary’s visit was an important milestone in Philippine-Iraq relations, being the first conducted by a Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary in more than 20 years”, said the DFA
Sources: Department of Foreign Affairs