MANILA (UPDATE)- The first batch of repatriated Filipinos from Iraq returned to the Philippines on Wednesday afternoon after some delay, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
A total of 13 Filipinos (11 adults and 2 children) from Iraq arrived in Manila past 4 p.m. and was received by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola.
They were flown home even as tensions in the Middle East simmered down after missile attacks between Iran and the United States. Tehran had sent missiles on US targets in Iraq after the US assassination of an Iranian general near the Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, chairman of the Committee on the Repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East, said among the repatriates, 9 were from Baghdad and 4 were from Erbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region.
From Doha, Qatar, the workers and children were accompanied by an official from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Doha.
The group was supposed to fly out of Baghdad via Doha at 10:30 p.m. on Monday night (3:30 a.m. Tuesday, Manila time) but was unable to fly out of the Baghdad International Airport due to exit visa problems.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, appointed by President Duterte as Special Envoy to the Middle East, sent off the OFWs at the Doha airport, Lorenzana said.
Philippine Ambassador to Qatar Alan Timbayan and Philippine Labor Attaché David Dicang were also present.
Lorenzana assured that the country's repatriation team in Doha is continuing to monitor and assess the security situation in all the hotspots in the Middle East. - with a report from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News