As tensions brew in the Korean Peninsula, different nations have begun formulating emergency plans to repatriate their citizens who reside in the troubled area.
One such country is Japan. They have begun discussions on how to conduct a rescue mission for over 60,000 Japanese expats living in South Korea. The comprehensive strategy includes coordination between the private sector, with chartered commercial flights and Japanese cruise ships accommodating potential refugees as well as using military assets such as heavy transport planes and naval vessels.
Trust Japan to be prepared at all times, it is a habit that should be emulated particularly by the Philippines. There are 68,911 Filipino citizens either residing permanently or temporarily working in South Korea, according to a 2013 report. That is a huge number of people needing to be evacuated in case a major war breaks out between the two Koreas.
If the worst case scenario happens, is the Philippines ready to come to the aid of its own citizens?
As of time of writing, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have several assets that could be tapped to help in the repatriation. The most obvious being the C-130 Hercules aircraft, which are heavy tactical transport planes of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). However, each C-130 can load up to 100 civilians and with only five such aircraft in our current inventory its capacity to move evacuees is slightly limited.
Another option is to get the Philippine Navy (PN) involved, particularly our two new landing platform dock vessels – BRP Tarlac and BRP Davao del Sur. Each vessel can load up to 500 individuals, which is a more potent instrument in evacuation. The PN also has ownership of two landing vessels, the BRP Bacolod City and BRP Dagupan City, which are used to transport a massive number of troops into the battlefield. Each vessel can contain up to 150 individuals, again a useful tool in case of an evacuation.
The Duterte government should also include commercial airlines operating routes to Korea, such as Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines, in any contingency planning. As it stands, the country does not have adequate military and other state-owned air assets to accommodate the potential number of evacuees on their own – hence, relying on the private sector for help is necessary even if they demand compensation. As they are corporate entities, their assets will be more potent and reliable to conduct such an operation compared to our state-owned military resources.
The ideas being floated in this article are amateur, a more comprehensive and thought-out plan should emerge out of a proper planning process composed of the executive branch, the AFP and other experts on this matter. The important part however is to recognize that planning should start before a crisis unfolds, otherwise we would be left without a proper strategy to come to the aid of our overseas workers.