"He is safe and there is no more risk of him being executed," the official said on Wednesday, quoting a Philippine official in Baghdad who was close to the negotiations for the release of truck driver Angelo de la Cruz.

The official declined to elaborate any further.

Angelo de la Cruz was released on condition Philippine troops leave the country by 20 July, a month earlier than planned. 

The Philippine air force said it had put two transport planes on standby in Manila to begin an evacuation of troops.

US unhappy

"The Department of Foreign Affairs is coordinating with the Defence Ministry for the withdrawal of troops," Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Albert said in a statement.

"He is safe and there
is no more risk of him being executed"

Philippine Foreign Affairs official

"The head count of the Philippine troops now in Baghdad from 51 is 43."

The United States urged the Philippines on Tuesday against bowing to pressure, by withdrawing its troops from Iraq ahead of schedule.

US officials in Manila said they had not heard whether Philippine troops had started to withdraw.

Statements by Philippine officials have been consistently vague since the deputy foreign secretary said on Monday that Manila would pull out as soon as possible, but gave no date.  

Family grateful

"We are ready to bring home our troops from Iraq but we have not received any orders to fly," an air force spokesman said.

"There are two C-130 transport planes waiting ready to fly from Manila," he said.

The de la Cruz family had expressed their relief and gratitude to everyone concerned with Angelo's release.

Left-wing groups have held marches to protest against Arroyo's pro-US policies and churches around the predominantly Roman Catholic country have held masses to pray for de la Cruz.