PHILIPPINES: U.S. Respects Decision to Withdraw Workers from Iraq

While Filipinos "play a crucial role in the allied effort to bring peace and democracy" to Iraq, U.S. officials recognize the the Philippines' concern in bringing its workers home, according to the U.S. embassy in Manila.
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Agence France-Presse

The United States said Wednesday it respects the Philippine government's bid to bring Filipino workers home from Iraq due to security concerns.

While Filipinos "play a crucial role in the allied effort to bring peace and democracy to a people who have been too long deprived of both," US officials also "recognize the government of the Philippines' concern for the welfare of its citizens," US embassy spokeswoman Karen Kelley said in a statement.

"This is understandable and we respect that position," she added.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier this month asked Filipino workers in Iraq to leave that country immediately following the death of two Filipino drivers in suspected guerrilla attacks.

On Tuesday Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said the US government has expressed concern over the repatriation move.

Filipinos comprise the biggest number of foreigners working for US-run military installations in Iraq. They are mostly employed as cooks and drivers, but are sometimes placed in dangerous situations.

Two Filipino drivers were killed earlier this month in attacks. Five other Filipinos riding in a convoy were also ambushed, and two of them sustained injuries. A Filipino accountant has been held hostage by militants in Iraq since November.

Manila-based monitor Migrante, an advocacy group for Filipinos who work abroad, said that since 2003, there have been six deaths, 17 injuries and two abductions of Filipino workers in Iraq.

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 pull-out 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.

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