Palace won’t ‘speculate’ on gov’t response if boat people reaches PH
WILL the Philippines take in undocumented “boat people” from Myanmar, known as Rohingya, into the country?
As the neighbor countries turn away the refugees, Malacañang said it is not yet ready to answer the question.
“It is inappropriate to engage in speculation,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to media.
“We will do what is needed and deal with concrete situations as these actually materialize, based on our position to comply with the UN (United Nations) convention relating to the status of refugees and stateless persons,” he said.
Earlier, the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Coloma saying that the government “will have to deny (their) admission if they don’t have travel documents.”
The statement drew flak from human rights group, such as the Human Rights Watch, which said the response was “unacceptable.”
“That heartless policy choice effectively condemns to death those desperate boat people, who are already sick, starving and dying of thirst, who enter Philippines waters seeking assistance,” the group said.
But Coloma later clarified that the Philippines will extend humanitarian assistance to the boat people.
He said the Philippines is in “solidarity” with the United Nations in providing relief to involuntarily displaced persons. However, he said his earlier response to Inquirer was a mere “restatement of applicable provisions of our existing laws.”
At the same time, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Philippines had an obligation to “admit and protect asylum seekers” as a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
International reports said thousands of people, onboard boats, who fled persecution in Myanmar and poverty in Bangladesh were turned away by countries in Southeast Asia. AC
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