Plans to evacuate Filipinos in place if Iran attacked, officials say
The Asia News Network/MCT
Manila -- Contingency plans are in place to evacuate more than 3,600 Filipinos in Iran in case nuclear plants there are attacked by a foreign country, Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay said Sunday.
Speaking to reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after arriving from the 16th Non-Aligned Movement Summit held in the Iranian capital Tehran, Binay said he was briefed on the contingency plans by Philippine charge d'affaires Mariano Dumia.
"Before meeting with the Filipino-Iranian community at the embassy, I was given a full briefing by Dumia on the plans that had been put in place in case the well-publicized threat to attack the nuclear plants of Iran comes to pass," Binay said.
"The embassy is hoping the plans will never have to be implemented, but in case it becomes necessary, the embassy is prepared to carry them out to protect the security and safety of the more than 3,640 Filipinos in Iran," he added.
Binay, who is also the presidential adviser on OFW (overseas Filipino workers) affairs, said that although he could not discuss details, he expressed confidence the plans would work.
"We cannot discuss the details of the plans, but I feel confident that they would work despite the skeleton force at the Philippine Embassy in Tehran we have in Dumia and his colleagues," he said.
The United States and Israel are said to have plans in place to attack Iran's nuclear sites if necessary to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
The US, Israel and their allies believe Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, although Tehran has consistently maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, such as energy production.
On August 1, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta while in Israel said that the US had various "options," including military options, to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon should diplomacy fail.
The International Atomic Energy Agency based in Vienna, Austria, reported on August 31 that there had been a "major expansion" of Iranian nuclear enrichment activities.
Binay also said he had "substantive talks" with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi during the first day of the three-day conference and discussed the possibility of increasing Iran's imports of Philippine bananas. He also urged them to invest in the Philippines.
"We agreed to encourage our respective chambers of commerce to discuss the various ways and means of engaging in expanded investments and trade.
Officers and members of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce may be coming to the Philippines soon," Binay said.
The vice president also said he was given the "unexpected honor" by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of presiding over "a good part of the morning session" after he (Binay) delivered his address to the conference.
Distributed by MCT Information Services