PH hoists alert level on Korea amid North-South dispute

The government said it is ready to ensure the safety of Filipinos in South Korea, even as it heightened alert over the country amid North Korea's declaration of war.

Alert Level 1 is now hoisted over South Korea, Foreign Affairs department spokesperson Raul Hernandez, adding that evacuation plans are in place should violence escalate.

"We have identified exit points in South Korea. Those who cannot go to the airports in Seoul and Incheon should go to Busan," Hernandez said.

"They will be relocated for eventual repatriation either by plane or ship," he added.

Related story: South Korea leader vows 'strong' retaliation' to North

Around 40,000 Filipinos are estimated to be in South Korea with which North Korea declared a "state of war" Saturday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, meanwhile, reiterated the government's hope that the conflict will be resolved diplomatically.

She nonetheless noted that Malacanang is focused on making sure that "the preparations that we've put in place will secure our nationals."

"We had the opportunity to give the contingency plan a second look so that the preparations now are benefiting from that look in 2011," Valte said in a Palace briefing.

"So I understand from the Department of Foreign Affairs that they've already contacted the Filipino community leaders in South Korea," she added.

Related story: North Korea names ex-premier back to the post, says KCNA

Evacuation plans for Korea, Valte said, have been improved based on lessons from the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Lebanon.

The officials' statements came at the wake of North Korea's declaration on Saturday that it is in a state of war with its rival South.

Tensions are seen to have risen due to new sanctions the U.S. and China have agreed to impose on North Korea over alleged nuclear weapons plan.

The Philippines has taken a strong stand against North Korea, condemning its reported nuclear tests as violations of international obligations.

Related video: More threats from North Korea

North Korean defectors, now living in South Korea, release balloons carrying propaganda leaflets denouncing North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-Il at Imjingak, near the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) ... more 
North Korean defectors, now living in South Korea, release balloons carrying propaganda leaflets denouncing North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-Il at Imjingak, near the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating South and North Korea on December 28, 2011 in Paju, South Korea. less 
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