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Filipinos in South Korea to be Evacuated
« on: April 01, 2013, 06:51:09 PM »
By Michaela del Callar

Amid lingering tensions in the Korean Peninsula, two possible evacuation sites have been identified for the estimated 40,000 Filipinos living and working in South Korea, the Dept. of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.

Situation in South Korea remains “normal,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a press briefing but as a precaution, the Philippine embassy in Seoul has imposed a “state of heightened alertness” or Alert Level 1 for Filipinos there.

Hernandez said the embassy is looking into the Southeastern cities of Gimhae and Daegu as evacuation areas for the Filipinos.

The DFA is also confirming if there are still Filipinos in North Korea.

Between five and seven Filipinos were working for non-government agencies there in 2012, Hernandez said.

“We have not had the chance to verify if they have already left the area,” he said.

North Korea on Saturday said it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea for holding what it calls “hostile” joint military drills with the United States.

South Korea said it will retaliate if North Korea would launch an attack on its territory.

Amid provocations from North Korea, also known by its official name - Democratic People’s Republic of Korea -- the Philippine Embassy in Seoul said “it is business as usual and that life proceeds normally” in South Korea.

But Hernandez said the embassy is closely following developments in the Korean Peninsula and is “preparing for any eventuality.”

Philippine officials in Seoul are likewise in close coordination with the Filipino community leaders as part of efforts to refine its existing contingency plan.

As a policy, all Philippine embassies and consulates general have a contingency plan designed to ensure the safety of overseas Filipinos in case of emergency situations such as disaster, war or civil unrest.

The contingency plan, which is regularly reviewed and updated, considers several options should emergencies occur, may be used to guarantee the welfare of overseas Filipinos and ensure the timely delivery of services in foreign posts.

“The embassy continues to monitor the situation in coordination with South Korean authorities and with the US forces and the United Nations command in South Korea,” Hernandez said.

At this stage, Hernandez said Filipinos who wish to go home will have to shoulder their own airfare back to the Philippines because the government has not yet imposed mandatory repatriation or Alert Level 4, the highest security alert being enforced by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The government shoulders all travel expenses of Filipino evacuees once Alert Level 4 is in place.

In the meantime, Filipinos in South Korea are being urged to visit the embassy website for additional information on the contingency plan, watch TV, listen to radio and read newspapers on the ongoing developments in the Korean Peninsula.

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