The United States has expressed concern over Manila’s move to bring home all Filipino workers from Iraq amid increasing insurgency there, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said Tuesday.
Romulo said US Embassy officials have raised the issue several times since Manila offered to fly home the estimated 6,000 Filipino workers after two died in apparent attacks earlier this month.
The Filipinos represent the biggest number of foreigners working for US-run military installations in Iraq. They are mostly employed as cooks and drivers, but are often placed in dangerous situations.
“I have been talking to them [US officials] ever since. They know this and I told them this is our position,” Romulo told reporters.
“We have to explain to them that our obligation is to our citizens. We are a sovereign country and we have to protect our citizens,” he added.
Two Filipino drivers were killed earlier this month in separate attacks. Five other Filipinos riding in a convoy were also ambushed, two sustaining injuries. A Filipino accountant, meanwhile, has been held hostage since November by Iraqi militants.
Ties between the Philippines and US chilled last year when the government banned travel of its citizens to Iraq and pulled out its token contribution serving with the US-led coalition forces.
The pullout came after a Filipino truck driver was kidnapped by militants, who demanded that the Philippines bring home all its troops from Iraq. The driver was subsequently freed.
--AFP with Jonathan Vicente
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