THE Philippine Embassy in Baghdad has called on Filipinos in Iraq and their families at home to remain calm in light of developments in Kirkuk and in the Jurdistan Region of the country in Western Asia.
It advised the Filipinos and their families to continue monitoring the Embassy’s Facebook accounts for updates.
But it stressed it did not see any immediate threat to the safety and security of overseas Filipino workers in the region arising from the reported tensions in Kirkuk Province.
Iraqi forces are advancing on the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk, with Iraq’s Prime Minister calling on residents in the oil-rich city to cooperate with its security forces.
By early Monday, Iraqi troops claimed to have taken control of several areas including the North Gas Company and the Kirkuk power station, according to a statement from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command.
The Kurdistan Regional Security Council issued its own statement, saying Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Units, advanced from Taza Khormatu in Kirkuk, just over 20 kilometers southwest of the city.
The Philippine Embassy said: “However, the Embassy would like to advise Filipinos in Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq to steer clear of Kirkuk at this time.
“The Embassy would also like to request our kababayans in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Duhok and other parts of Kurdistan to continue to remain vigilant and to report any unusual developments with (sic) us.”
In connection with the measures taken by the Iraqi government in reaction to the recent independence referendum, the Philippine Embassy advised Filipinos intending to travel to the Philippines and other countries abroad would be directly impacted by Baghdad’s decision to suspend international flights to and from Kurdistan.
It advised Filipinos going on vacation they would have to take Iraqi Airways to Baghdad to board their connecting flights to the Philippines or elsewhere outside the country.
The embassy said Filipinos who entered Kurdistan directly and without valid Iraqi visas would only be allowed to board their connecting flights out of Baghdad after paying a fine of $420 to immigration authorities.
“The Embassy would like to advise our kababayans intending to travel out of Kurdistan that returning to Iraq may become a problem for those without valid Iraqi visas,” it said.
Until now, it said the embassy had yet to receive any guidelines from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad on whether it would be possible for Filipino nationals already in the Philippines to secure their visas at the Iraqi Embassy in Manila.
“The Embassy believes that it would be better for our kababayans to put on hold their travel plans until this matter is clarified,” it said.
“The Embassy regrets to inform our kababayans that it would not be in a position to assist Filipinos who may not be able to return to their jobs in Kurdistan in the even that they would not be able to secure their visas,” it added.