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DFA assures safety of Pinoys in Ukraine

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Polish Border guard officer inspects cars on border cross in Medyka, south east Poland, February 15, 2022. At a ramshackle border post in southeast Poland, Ukrainian migrant workers crossing on foot with heavy bags voiced a mix of concern and defiance over Russia's troop build-up around their country. (AFP)

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has assured the safety of Filipinos living in Ukraine amid the serious threat of a Russian invasion of the former Soviet Union country.

DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday said he is currently handling the situation and has been “making calls” for the safe passage of Filipinos across borders.

“Rest assured Filipinos in Ukraine will come to no harm; I will be on top of it personally,” he said on Twitter.

The top envoy is in Cambodia to participate in the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Retreat and Related Meetings on 16 to 17 February. He will be heading to Paris, France on 19 February, which he said is “close enough” to Ukraine.

Locsin then designated DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola to lead the evacuation.

“This is a job for Sarah. It will be a land journey to the closest border; I expect the Americans to keep watch as they did and more discreetly in Libyan evacuations and rescues. This is when we know who our friends are and who are just crybabies,” he said.

There are 380 Filipinos living in Ukraine, the DFA said. Of the numbers, at least eight have requested to be repatriated back to the Philippines.

Earlier, the agency said it already has a contingency plan in place in the event the situation between the two countries further escalates.

“The situation at Ukraine’s border remains fluid, and security conditions could change at any moment. The DFA has been in discussions with the Filipino community, as well as with other governments and international partners regarding Filipino nationals who wish to relocate to more secure areas,” it said.

It also advised Filipinos living in the country to keep their communication lines open for updates, bulletins, and safety instructions.

Legislators have raised alarm on the heightening tension between Russia and Ukraine including Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan who called on the concerned government agencies to prepare for the possible scenarios. He also urged the DFA to coordinate with the Ukrainian government for the evacuation and repatriation of Filipino families there.

“There are 600 Pinoys working (in Ukraine) as household workers or IT (practitioners), according to the Ukraine government. Most of them are living in the capital of Kyiv or nearby areas,” Pangilinan said. “We know what to do. We should do it.”

For his part, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson urged the administration to prepare safety nets should there be an economic fallout following the “imminent” invasion of Ukraine.

“We might think that Ukraine is far away, and that there is no danger for the Philippines.  We are all living in a global village.  An invasion of Ukraine may adversely affect the stock markets all over the world. Prices of basic commodities and fuel may increase. We need to be prepared for this, not to mention that we are still suffering from the pandemic and are far from economic recovery,” Lacson, chairperson of the Senate defense committee, said over the weekend.

“We hope that there are contingency plans for increases in prices, disruptions in supply chains and possible repatriation of Filipinos not just in Ukraine but in neighboring countries,” he said.

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