PEACETALK: A conflict in the Middle East means heightened vulnerability for our people

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 07 January) — Recent developments in the United States  and the Middle East, following the assassination of Iran’s Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, will have severe consequences for the Philippines should it escalate to a war between nations.

Given a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia, the latter is seen as a launching pad for US offensives against nearby Iran. This would mean massive job losses for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), with 54.9 percent or roughly 1.26 million of the total 2.29 million OFWs based in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is leading destination for OFWs, and is among the top sources of remittances from OFWs. Remittances have steadied our local economy, despite economic shocks and drove household consumption towards raising the standard of living in communities across the country.

Meanwhile, the Strait of Hormuz which connects the Middle East to the rest of the world faces the possibility of closure, should conflict escalate. Roughly 80 percent of oil that passes through the strait is headed to the rest of Asia.

Conflict in the Middle East can drastically affect our economy and strike a massive blow against Filipino families. But more than effects tied to livelihood, it is the lives of millions that hang in the balance. A significant number of OFWs in the Middle East are from the Bangsamoro region, majority of them women.

As potential losses pile up, terrorist groups stand to gain from the conflict. Soleimani has been instrumental in building on-ground alliances that fought against ISIS out of its strongholds. Following his death, a US-led coalition that has been operating in Iraq has announced that it would be suspending most of its operations against ISIS, giving it room to orchestrate its revival in Iraq and Syria.

The Philippines has always been a target for ISIS expansion, with local terror groups seeking ISIS recognition and affiliation. As the Bangsamoro eases into a political transition and with continued displacement across the region, a conflict in the Middle East means heightened vulnerability for our people.

The Philippine government, together with its ASEAN neighbors, must draft and commit to a contingency plan in response to the possibility of global conflict. What’s brewing is not just a war in the Persian Gulf, but a war against people’s lives. We must take more decisive actions that will assure Filipinos of their safety, and secure the future of those whose lives would otherwise be compromised should the present conflict escalate into war.  (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. PeaceTalk is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on peace in Mindanao. Zia Alonto Adiong, a former Assemblyman and majority floor leader of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is now a Member of Parliament at the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. He was awarded last month as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men for 2019, the lone Mindanawon among the awardees. Adiong posted this piece on his FB page on January 6. MindaNews was granted permission to publish this)