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Philippines Will Not Send Additional Personnel to Iraq - 2004-04-15


The Philippine government has put a halt on sending more humanitarian workers to Iraq and is drawing up a contingency evacuation plan for its citizens in the troubled country.

President Gloria Arroyo on Thursday ordered a halt on deploying additional forces to Iraq, where a number of foreigners have been kidnapped or killed in recent weeks.

She also asked officials to draw up a plan to evacuate Filipino citizens if security conditions in the country deteriorate.

There are about 1,000 documented Filipino civilians living in Iraq, as well as 50 soldiers and policeman deployed on a U.S.-led humanitarian mission. The military group is not in a conflict area and would remain, the presidential palace said. The troops would be called on to evacuate citizens if needed.

Reports on Thursday said about five hundred Filipino workers were stranded at a U.S. air base in Iraq and had not been able to leave the country. Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julia Heidemann talks about the situation.

Ms. Heidemann says the workers had been restricted to the base for their own safety and embassy officials will help those who want to leave Iraq.

A surge in kidnapping and violence against foreigners in Iraq has already seen Russian contractors pull their workers out of the country. One Filipino was kidnapped by Iraqi militants earlier this month but has since been released. About 40 foreigners are still believed to be held by militants in Iraq, and one hostage, an Italian, has been killed.