MANILA: Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin has arrived in Poland to oversee the evacuation of Filipinos from Ukraine, his office said on Saturday, as Russia’s attacks on the Eastern European state have intensified.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine began early on Thursday with a multipronged ground assault and airstrikes on military bases and cities, including the capital Kyiv. The attacks have since forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee across Ukraine’s borders to Poland, Romania and Moldova.
“Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. arrived in Poland yesterday around 4.45 p.m. and was quickly briefed by embassy officials on the ground situation in Ukraine,” Locsin’s office said in a statement.
More than 40 out of an estimated 380 Filipinos in Ukraine have so far fled Kyiv and arrived in the western city of Lviv, near the Polish border. According to Philippine government data, only 181 Filipinos have so far coordinated with the Department of Foreign Affairs to facilitate their repatriation.
In a series of Twitter posts after his arrival in Poland, Locsin said many Filipinos are “reluctant to go.”
“Their employers are pleading with them to stay behind. That is what Filipinos do. Stand beside the one, watching out for the other one beside her or him,” he added.
Leah Basinang-Ruiz, Manila’s ambassador to Poland, said the embassy was “committed to assisting the remaining Filipinos in Kyiv and in other parts of Ukraine in order to bring them out of harm’s way while there is still time.”
The Philippines embassy in Warsaw last week sent a consular team to Lviv to establish an emergency contact base.
Basinang-Ruiz traveled to Lviv to receive the first group of evacuees.
As the situation in Ukraine deteriorates, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Department of National Defense was on standby, ready to transport Filipinos to safety.
“The Department of National Defense views the developments in Ukraine with the utmost concern,” Lorenzana said in a statement on Saturday.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and are standing by to assist our other government agencies led by the Department of Foreign Affairs in repatriating our citizens from Ukraine, if and when we are called upon to do so.”
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