Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is set to fly to South Korea this weekend to check on contingency plans aimed at ensuring the safety of about 43,000 Filipino workers there amid North Korea's threats to wage war against the South and the US.
Del Rosario said the actions of North Korea, also known by its official name Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has sparked “grave concerns.”
In a text message to GMA News Online on Friday, Del Rosario said he would meet with the South Korean Foreign vice minister in charge of North Korea to get a briefing on the situation, which, along with information he got from Pentagon officials during his recent US trip, would guide the Philippine government in preparing a contingency plan to keep Filipinos away from harm.
Del Rosario, who leaves Saturday midnight for Seoul, would stay less than 24 hours during his whirlwind trip to South Korea, underscoring the high concern the Philippines has placed on North Korea’s threats and their impact on the Filipinos working in the skilled and semi-skilled sectors in the South.
Tensions in the Korean Peninsula is the latest potential crisis involving overseas Filipinos workers since Del Rosario assumed the top DFA post in February 2011. Others have been the violence and unrest in Libya and Syria.
“It is our full intention to fully vet our contingency plans to ensure their applicability to addressing the current threats in terms of risk avoidance and risk control,” Del Rosario said.
“We would also like to explore all possible assistance with may be obtained from our international partners.”
North Korea last week 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.
The Philippines has called for "sobriety among all stakeholders and for the easing of tensions in the region."
For his part, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the government continues to closely monitor the situation and advises Filipinos in South Korea to remain alert.
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. — Michaela del Callar/RSJ, GMA News