Government ready to evacuate Pinoys in South Korea

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Monday, April 1, 2013


MANILA - The government expressed readiness Monday to evacuate about 40,000 Filipinos living and working in South Korea to the extent of tapping commercial vessels if and when the need arises.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said contingency plans are in place in the event that the recurring tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalate further in light of North Korea’s recent declaration of a "state of war" with South Korea.

“If you remember, when the tensions increased -- I think sometime in early 2011 -- we had the opportunity to give the contingency plan a second look so that the preparations now are benefiting from that look in 2011,” she said.

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“We were able to do it in several other countries. Hopefully, we will also be able to do it (again) but we hope that it will not be necessary. And we are one with everybody in hoping that the tensions decrease in that particular area,” she added.

Quoting the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Valte said Filipino community leaders in South Korea have already been contacted and put on Alert Level 1 for heightened awareness of the situation.

Alert level 1 means that the more than 40,000 Filipinos in South Korea should also monitor the political and security changes in the country.

Valte said, however, that she was unaware whether additional funds and personnel will be provided for the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, since they were told that "life seems to be normal" still in that particular area.

“I did not hear any discussions as to augmented funding and as to augmented manpower of our post there in South Korea. But, if and when necessary, we will be able to provide what is needed,” she said.

Malacañang is leaving the finer details of the government’s contingency plans to the DFA but the important thing, Valte said, is that "we consider all options."

“I do know that the plan involves moving, alerting our people at a certain time, reminding them of the particular convergence points that have been identified, and then eventually moving to the point where they will be taken out of that particular area," she said.

She assured that the Philippine Government considers all options, one of which is to employ commercial vessels.

“You’ve seen that in the case of our evacuations in Libya, also in Syria, and also earlier in Lebanon,” she said.

North Korea declared the “state of war” with its neighboring nation last week, stressing it will not give up its atomic and nuclear program in exchange for aid. It also said it will further strengthen its nuclear weapons.

North Korea launched nuclear and missile tests in February and March, which pushed the United Nations to tighten sanctions against the highly reclusive country that is being governed by the young Kim Jong-Un.

Forces of the United States and South Korea also started military drills near the border.

In 2010, North Korea admitted the existence of a uranium enrichment facility and a light water reactor supposedly to address power shortage in the country, but experts said the facility could be reconfigured to make fuel for nuclear weapons.

A year before that, the North already abandoned six-party talks that offered economic and security benefits for its denuclearization. (SDR/With CVB/Sunnex)

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