Philippines Planning Iraq Civilian Evacuation

The Philippine government is preparing contingency plans to evacuate more than 4,000 citizens working in Iraq if violence escalates ahead of U.S. and British elections, the labor secretary said Sunday.

Some 4,300 migrant workers have been warned not to venture out of the U.S. camps where they are based. The government will distribute booklets to the workers explaining what to do in case of direct attacks on the bases.

Acknowledging the danger of traveling by land and air in Iraq, Labor Secretary Patricia Santo (search) Tomas said the government was drawing up evacuation plans. She did not elaborate.

Violence has intensified in the past few months in Iraq, where near-daily bombings take place and dozens of foreigners have been kidnapped, with some being killed.

In July, a Filipino truck driver was taken hostage in Iraq, forcing Manila to withdraw its small peacekeeping force to save his life. The troop pullout was strongly criticized by the United States and its key allies.

Santo Tomas cited Roy Cimatu, a former military chief of staff now overseeing the safety of Filipinos in Iraq, as saying he expects Iraqi insurgents to step up attacks ahead of U.S. elections in November and polls in Britain expected next year.

The militants "would like to embarrass the governments in those two countries," Santo Tomas said.

Officials also expect a surge in violence ahead of Iraqi elections in January.

Santo Tomas said she hoped the warnings of intensified violence would deter other Filipinos from seeking work in Iraq.