President Benigno Aquino III has extended the operations of the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Committee (PMEPC) for six more months to allow it to continue helping address Philippine concerns not only in the Middle East but also in Africa.
Executive Order No. 20, signed by Aquino last Jan. 6, extended the stay of the PMEPC under Special Envoy Roy A. Cimatu until June 30, 2011 as tensions and political instability in the Middle East and Africa continue to threaten the safety of Filipino workers there.
“There is a need for the PMEPC to continue to assess and monitor developments and update contingency measures to ensure the safety of Filipinos in the Middle East and Africa, prepare and establish a specific contingency plan each for the potential crises in these countries,” said EO No. 20.
Aquino’s directive said the PMEPC must continue to help address the piracy problem in Somalia, where over a hundred Filipino sailors remain captive by pirates.
EO No. 20 said the PMEPC will be provided P6 million from the contingency fund of the Office of the President — subject to availability — for its administrative and operational expenses.
The PMEPC was created in 2002 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following the Iraq crisis, which prompted the Philippine government to implement a deployment ban in the troubled Middle East country. The situation was compounded in 2004 when Filipino driver Angelo dela Cruz was abducted by Iraqi rebels.
The mandate of the PMEPC first expired on June 30, 2007 but was extended in August 2007 through Executive Order 640, which gave them a mandate until Dec. 31, 2007 following continued tensions in Iraq and Lebanon.
Arroyo continued extending the operations of the PMEPC until June 30, 2010, her last day in office. Aquino, her successor, also extended PMEPC’s operations until Dec. 31, 2010 through EO No. 6 issued last September. — KBK/RSJ, GMANews.TV