Manila puts security forces on high alert amid Israel-Hamas war

Gerard Carreon and Jojo Riñoza
Manila puts security forces on high alert amid Israel-Hamas war A Filipino protester waves a flag of Palestine during a demonstration in support of the people of Palestine, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Oct. 11, 2023.
[Lisa Marie David/Reuters]

Manila has put security forces on high alert in case “ISIS spinoffs” launch strikes in the country copying Hamas fighters’ attacks on Israel last weekend, the Philippine defense chief said Friday.

Gilberto Teodoro Jr. did not say whether intelligence officials had received reports that Islamic State-linked militant groups in the south or their cells in Manila and other cities were plotting attacks in this largely Catholic country in response to the new war in Israel and the Gaza Strip. 

“Anybody can copy whatever happened in the Middle East or what not. Disruptors, let’s call [them]…, or extremists,” Defense Secretary Teodoro told reporters.

“I mean it always happens, so any country in this part of the world … even in Europe, [is] on high alert for possible effects of this on their security situation. As much as possible, we are asking [the security sector] to get ready.”

Communities needed to be vigilant as well and must inform authorities if they see anything suspicious, Teodoro added.

Hamas launched rockets against Israel and attacked civilian targets from the ground during a Jewish holiday last weekend, and Israel responded with retaliatory strikes, which has led to the deaths or injuries of thousands of people on both sides.

Separately, the Philippine National Security Adviser’s office said it was working to make it a priority for the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate Hamas a terrorist organization “in solidarity with the people of Israel.”

“[W]e hope for a swift resolution to this conflict, we pray for the safety of innocent civilians,” National Security Adviser Eduardo M. Año said in a statement.

The Philippines, which has friendly ties with Israel, has condemned the wave of surprise attacks launched by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Teodoro also said the Philippines was ready to evacuate its residents caught in the middle of the fighting.

So far, three Filipinos have been killed in the violence, while two remained missing as of Friday. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he would give the slain Filipinos a proper burial.

Still, forced evacuations have yet to be ordered. However, 22 of the estimated 30,000 Filipinos working in Israel have asked for Manila’s help to return home – eight of them are expected to be back in the Philippines by next week.

“The situation in Israel is not a big problem if it refers to the evacuation of nationals because the situation there is more stable and we’re ready to repatriate them,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega said.

The concern, he said, were Filipinos who were in Gaza, where the Philippine government has requested its citizens to voluntarily return home. Unless Israel opened a “humanitarian corridor” the Philippine government could not do anything to get its citizens out of the densely populated Palestinian enclave, De Vega said.

“We are in touch with other governments in the region,” he said.“President Marcos said that the immediate concern is repatriation, but nobody right now can get in or out of Gaza. So repatriation, of course, is not yet possible at this time.”

A relative hugs a Thai overseas worker who was evacuated from Israel, upon his arrival at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, near Bangkok, Oct. 12, 2023. [Sakchai Lalit/AP]

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, 19 other Thai nationals left Israel on Friday and were expected to arrive in Thailand on Saturday, while another 100 were scheduled to leave Israel on Saturday, Thai Foreign Ministry officials said. The first batch of 41 Thai returnees arrived in Bangkok on Thursday.

Thai Defense Minister Anutin Klangsang told reporters at the Bangkok airport on Thursday that military officials were working on efforts to repatriate all of the Thais who had registered with the embassy in Tel Aviv – 6,778 Thai nationals have registered for voluntary repatriation.

According to the Thai Embassy in Tel Aviv, 21 Thais had been killed in the Hamas-Israel violence, another 14 had been injured, and 16 had been abducted.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the foreign ministry said most Indonesians in Israel had left for Jordan via a border crossing this week, although a majority of the more than 100 living there and in the West Bank had decided to stay. 

Most of the more than 300 Indonesians who left were religious pilgrims, while many of the 129 staying on were students, an Indonesian Foreign Ministry official said.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.