Defense authorities in the Philippines are monitoring the security situation in Afghanistan following the takeover there by the Taliban.
The monitor had authorities on alert while 22 Filipino evacuees from Afghanistan were flown home Wednesday.
The evacuees aboard Philippine Airlines flight PR-721 arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport – Terminal 2 around 10:59 a.m.
“With the help of the Philippine government, they (evacuees) were able to join a rescue flight by the British military from Kabul to London four days ago,” said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.
She said the embassy in London led by Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo and other Philippine government officials worked closely with PAL for the return of the evacuees to Manila.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday the situation in Afghanistan was being watched here, 5,612 kms away, noting that two founders of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, responsible for several kidnapping and bombing attacks in the country, were trained in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
“We are really giving special attention to Afghanistan because we’re concerned about that. The threat is present,” Lorenzana told SMNI News Channel.
Villaluna said upon arrival at the airport, the evacuees were brought to a facility for the mandatory quarantine and took the requiredReverse Transcription – Polymerase Chain React COVID-19 test.
“Our kababayans will have to wait for several days before seeing loved ones because mandatory quarantine and RT-PCR testing have to be fulfilled,” she said.
Those who arrived in Manila Wednesday were among the 49 Filipinos and other foreign passengers of a British military airlift mission from Kabul to London four days ago.
The evacuees worked in various industries such as hotel, petroleum, and security among others in Afghanistan.
More Filipinos are reported to have been evacuated to the United Kingdom, with their status now being verified by the Philippine Embassy in London.
In its advisory, the Department of Foreign Affairs said all evacuated Filipinos who request to return to the Philippines will be assisted.
“The Department continues to work on the immediate extraction of the remaining Filipinos in Afghanistan,” the DFA stated.
A total of 158 Filipinos have left Afghanistan since the Taliban fighters seized control of its capital Kabul.
The DFA has recently issued Alert Level 4 for the whole of Afghanistan due to the uncertain security situation in the country.
The agency maintains its call for all Filipinos in Afghanistan to join the repatriation effort and to immediately contact the Philippine Embassy in Pakistan.
Lorenzana said Admiral John C. Aquilino, commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command told him during his visit to the Philippines that there were no Filipinos currently undergoing training with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
But Lorenzana said there might be Indonesians or Malaysians still undergoing training with the Taliban and this was an issue of concern for the Philippines.
“We are coordinating with Malaysia and Indonesia to prevent the return of probable terrorists and we can prevent them from moving to other countries,” Lorenzana added.
The Taliban seized Afghanistan 20 years after being ousted by American forces in 2001.
The US has accused the Taliban of sheltering al Qaeda forces, the terrorist group behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Earlier, Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research chief Rommel Banlaoi warned of a possible spillover in Mindanao of the tension in Afghanistan.
According to Banlaoi, the situation in Afghanistan could inspire local terrorist groups to carry out attacks.