Aquino: DFA chief to fly to Seoul to personally assess situation

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Friday, April 5, 2013

MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III has ordered Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to personally see the preparations being made by the Philippine Embassy in South Korea for possible evacuation of Filipinos there in case a war breaks out in the Korean Peninsula.

In an interview during the Team PNoy senatorial bets' campaign sortie in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, Aquino said that Del Rosario will fly to Seoul on Saturday to consult the embassy people there.

"But as of now, we haven't received any information saying that there is imminent threat that needs us to start the evacuation (of the Filipinos)," he said.

He noted that there are around 50,000 Filipinos in South Korea and about 15,000 of them are living close to the demilitarized zone than in Seoul.

"If war erupts, our countrymen are really in the middle," he said.

When the tension in the Korean Peninsula again occurred after declaration of North Korea that it was in a "state of war" with the South, Aquino said that he instructed Del Rosario and the government's intelligence services to assess whether or not the threat is real and how bad is it.

He also asked them to update all of the contingency plans that were already in place as early as two years ago.

"I'm reasonably confident that the Filipino community organizations working hand-in-hand with the Embassy will be able to organize our countrymen in the event that there is a need to evacuate them. And we are talking with other countries also to assist us in this effort," he said.

Under the government's contingency plan, Filipinos will be brought to the southern portion of the country, in Busan, and then they will be ferried or airlifted from there, the President said.

He also said that the government has better capability now than before in evacuating people because it has three operational C-130 cargo planes. It also has a Navy ship that could ferry people from South Korea.

One C-130 can carry about 100 people per flight for a four-hour flight, the President said.

A Philippine Navy ship can carry a thousand but travel time could take around 10 days.

Aquino said there is no reason for the public to be alarmed of the situation in South Korea.

He said part of the assessment being made by the intelligence community is to determine why the leadership of North Korea is again issuing threats.

"Why did North Korea have to issue those statements at this time? Do they have internal problems," he said, adding that there were instances that when a country has an internal problem, it has to make noise outside to distract the people.

Tension has been high in the Korea Peninsula amid threats of North Korea to launch nuclear attacks against the US and its ally, South Korea. On Thursday, the US announced it is deploying an anti-missile defense system in Guam to shield its territory against a possible North Korean missile attack. (SDR/Sunnex)

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