UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (DWDD) – The Philippines has placed its embassies in Washington and Mexico on a higher state of readiness to allow them to immediately come to the rescue of Filipinos in the United States and the Caribbean who may be impacted by Hurricane Irma.
“We have seen how powerful and destructive Hurricane Irma is,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said after receiving initial reports of the damage the category 5 hurricane had inflicted on several Caribbean islands.
“We should not be taking any chances and should be ready to assist our nationals who may get caught in the middle of this storm,” Secretary Cayetano added.
The Secretary said he has instructed Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Chuasoto of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. and Ambassador Eduardo De Vega of the Philippine Embassy in Mexico to be ready to deploy teams to hurricane-affected areas in case there are Filipino nationals there that would need assistance.
Secretary Cayetano, at the same time, said he has instructed Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola to make sure that funds are available to assist Filipinos who would be affected by the hurricane.
Described by weather experts as the most powerful storm in the Atlantic in over a decade, Irma left a trail of death and destruction after it swept across the islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin. The storm has left at least nine dead so far and untold damage in the affected areas.
Secretary Cayetano said the Department of Foreign Affairs is still waiting for reports on the condition of Filipinos in the affected areas. According to the Philippine Embassy in Washington, there are 72 Filipinos in Anguilla; 32 in Antigua and Barbuda; and 264 in the British Virgin Islands.
Of particular concern to the DFA, according to Secretary Cayetano is Turks and Caicos, which hosts a Filipino population of around 2,327, the largest in the Caribbean. The islands, with a population of more than 31,000, is at risk of a storm surge with destructive waves as high as 20 feet.
Hurricane Irma will also make landfall in Florida, with a Filipino population of more than 150,000, if it continues in its present destructive path. DFA / MCAG