By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times
PRESIDENTIAL hopeful and former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Saturday called for the safety of Filipinos in Ukraine, which has been invaded by neighboring Russia.
In a statement, Marcos said the Philippine government must focus on ensuring the safety of Filipinos amid the dangerous situation in Ukraine.
He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) must speed up its efforts to repatriate all Filipinos in Ukraine "while we can still do so, especially with Russian forces allegedly targeting civilian areas."
"We have to get our countrymen there out of harm's way. Let's not wait for the aggression to escalate further," he added.
According to the latest count of the DFA, there are some 260 Filipinos in Ukraine. Most of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) there are based in Kyiv.
Marcos said it is now time to proceed with the crisis management mechanisms and exit strategies that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office had earlier arranged.
"In-country relocation of OFWs in Ukraine away from the beleaguered capital may not be safe as the attack has already been made on different areas and that the magnitude of ongoing armed conflict is still uncertain," he said.
Despite the escalating crisis between Russia and Ukraine, the Philippines is still keeping Alert Level 2 over the eastern European country, which only instructs Filipinos there to restrict non-essential movements, avoid public places and prepare for evacuation.
Russian missiles were launched on Ukrainian cities after Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed a full-scale ground invasion and air assault against the country Friday after weeks of escalating tensions in the region and sanctions imposed by Western nations.
Putin said he had "decided to conduct a special military operation" aimed at the "demilitarization and denazification" of the neighboring country.
He called on Ukraine's forces to lay down their arms and surrender their country to Russian control and warned the US and NATO not to interfere or they would face "consequences you have never seen."
Earlier Saturday, Ukraine's military said Russia had "attacked one of the military units on Victory Avenue in Kyiv" but that the assault was "repulsed."