MANILA - The Philippine government on Thursday ordered its nationals in war-torn regions of Iraq to flee the country but said those in Kurdistan could remain.
"Due to the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq," the department raised "Alert Level 4" calling for the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in areas of Iraq affected by the fighting.
Under this alert level, the government will arrange and pay for their evacuation.
However the alert does not cover Filipinos working in Iraqi Kurdistan which "remains relatively calm and stable", the statement added.
The Philippine embassy in Baghdad and a special team dispatched to Iraq would be helping Filipinos leave the affected areas.
Department spokesman Charles Jose told AFP there were about 900 Filipinos in Iraq but most were in Kurdistan while about 152 were known to be in the Baghdad area. He said those in the strife-torn areas should be evacuated "as soon as possible if not immediately".
The Philippines is one of the world's largest labour-exporting nations, sending millions of people to work abroad with many going to the Middle East to toil in jobs that pay far more than what they could earn at home.