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.
He said “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.”
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.
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.
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.
Cayetano said the latest report from the Philippine Embassy in Mexico said all 600 Filipinos there are safe.
There are 72 Filipinos in Anguilla; 32 in Antigua and Barbuda; and 264 in the British Virgin Islands, the Philippine Embassy in Washington said.
Cayetano said of particular concern to the DFA 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.