Senate probes proposed stay of Afghan refugees in PH
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Friday, June 16, began its probe into the United States proposal to bring into the Philippines some Afghans that had worked with its government in fighting the Taliban.
The foreign relations panel, chaired by presidential sister Senator Imee Marcos, had invited Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez to the hearing.
Both Manalo and Romualdez have confirmed their attendance, with the latter promising to be present virtually.
According to the inquiry brief provided by the Senate, these are among the possible discussion points for the hearing:
• Nature of the proposed agreement between the Philippines and the US
• Number of Afghan refugees to be temporarily housed in the Philippines and if they would later seek asylum
• Details of the technical coordination meeting of the Presidential Management Staff and various government agencies where they tackled the proposal
• Potential national security and public safety issues that may arise should the proposal be granted
• Position of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, and the Department of National Defense on the proposal
What we know so far
The inquiry on the “urgent matter” was prompted by Marcos’ Senate Resolution 651, where she expressed alarm over the supposedly discreet plan to grant the US request.
The senator said a memorandum of agreement heeding the US plea was allegedly being finalized already.
Marcos urged the Philippines to take a “more cautious stand” in accepting refugees from other countries, especially those being “brokered” by a global giant.
She also questioned why the Philippines is being asked to accommodate Afghan refugees when there are other countries geographically closer and “better equipped” to take on such a task.
“The fact that the US opted to house these foreign nationals in another country and not on US soil, even though these individuals are supporters of the US and, possibly, even former employees of the US government or US companies, casts doubt on the character and background of some of these individuals,” Marcos further said.
Romualdez has since said the proposal is still being reviewed by the Philippine government.
But, he said, the public inquiry sought by Marcos is a welcome move, so the US request can be “properly vetted and discussed.”
Romualdez had also said the US government would foot the bill, should the Philippines agree to temporarily house the Afghan refugees.
From Duterte to Marcos
During the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines announced that it would welcome Afghan asylum seekers after the Taliban seized control of Kabul in 2021.
Then Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines had already started taking in Afghan refugees, which included women and children.
Meanwhile, the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has yet to issue to the public its position on refugees or asylum seekers.