The Philippine Government has sent warning text messages to all of its citizens residing in Yemen urging them to leave the country immediately. This is the third warning message that the Philippine Government has initiated.
The Philippine Government is one of many foreign governments that called for all of its citizens, including diplomatic missions, to leave due to the deteriorating security situation that began in February of this year.
The National Yemen met with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario of the Philippine Embassy of Yemen to discuss the recent decision made by his government and his perspectives on the current crisis:
National Yemen (NY): How many Filipinos are currently working in Yemen and why issue another call for their departure?
Mr. Del Rosario (DR): The total numbers Filipinos in Yemen are a little above 2,000 with the majority of the living in Sana’a. Approximately 10%of the population, or 2.5 million, currently work overseas. Many of them work in countries throughout the Middle East including Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Egypt. As the Arab Spring phenomena developed throughout this region of the world, our president has become very concerned about the safety of his people. Accordingly, I am here to look over the safety of our people in Yemen and this is why we have issued the call.
NY: How did you reach the conclusion to ask Filipinos to leave?
DR: While I am grateful to see that the people who still remain in the country to work are still safe, Yemen is becoming an increasing concern for us. Our analysis on Yemen was based on the escalation of violence seen in the country, what we’ve read on local websites, international newspapers, and satellite television. As a result of this analysis, we decided to reissue a warning alert.
NY: What options do Filipinos have now?
DR: We have given our people the opportunity to repatriate if they wish. If any citizens wish to do so, the cost will be paid by the Philippine Government. At the same time however, it is not our policy to force anyone to leave if they do not wish to do so. We have told all the Filipinos in Yemen that this is an opportunity for them to stay safe and that we will make any necessary arrangements if they choose to do so. For those who stay, it is their choice and they take full responsibility in case something bad was to happen.
NY: Will Filipinos follow your suggestion and leave?
DR: First off, we are hoping that the situation will improve and we believe that the people in Yemen deserve a prosper peace. As our people go abroad we make agreement with such countries to make sure that our people are protected. To always make sure they are protected, we have implemented legislation that works to protect Filipinos no matter where they live. Even though we may be a developing country, the system and rules should be respected by the Philippine people.
NY: As the current diplomatic mission to Yemen is based in Riyadh and not physically present in Yemen, is there any demand to open a Philippine Embassy of official consulate in Yemen in the future?
DR: Our government and Yemen have ongoing diplomatic relations and that will continue from Saudi Arabia courtesy of Yemen. The Philippine Government is a very small country with limited resources. As such, we are very selective on where we place diplomatic representation. This decision is largely based off of the number of our people in the country that must be taken care of. Currently, there are 2,000 Filipinos working in Yemen. Compare that to the 1.5 million that are working in Saudi Arabia at the moment. Even small countries like Qatar and Bahrain have nearly 31,000 Filipinos working and living within their borders. Even though the number of Filipinos working in Yemen is small, we still have an honorary consulate for them.
NY: What is your perspective on the current political dispute in Yemen?
DR: I do not prefer to interfere in such local issues but I believe that there are calls for reform in Yemen. I hope that the Yemen Government will be listening to these calls peacefully and help its people move Yemen forward. Additionally, we are hopeful that the solution can be found and will be stabilized allowing for progress towards a proper future.
I also must note that we are very proud of Tawakkul Karman and I would like to congratulate the distinguished lady for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The fact that she is a woman only adds to the superlatives of accomplishments that define Yemen.
NY: Do you have anything else you would like to say regarding the relationship between the Philippines and Yemen?
DR: Yes, it should be noted that the Filipino community is warmly hosted by Yemen and they are all working hard and contributing to the progress of Yemen. Many Filipinos are very happy to be in Yemen and hope that the potential violence will end very soon. I think if the country can become stabilized there will be more opportunities for Filipinos to come to Yemen. If this is realized, the first beneficiary will be the people of Yemen