Aquino: 'PH cannot give refugees permanent residency'
MANILA, Philippines – Citing internal "challenges," President Benigno Aquino III said the Philippines can only give “limited” assistance to refugees coming from war-torn countries.
Fielding questions at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines’ (FOCAP) annual presidential forum on Tuesday, October 27, Aquino said the government is “seriously considering and studying” Australia’s proposal to take in refugees but the government has to focus on its citizens first.
“I think Australia recognizes that we have a significantly bigger population than they do. We have challenges to meeting the needs of our people right now. We would want to assist but there are limitations as to how far we can assist,” Aquino said.
The President recounted how the government opened its doors to Vietnamese refugees in the past. The country, as a transit point then, welcomed refugees in the provinces of Palawan and Rizal.
He said the Philippines was just supposed to be a refugee transit point for around two to 3 years, but the actual period stretched far longer than that.
Aquino said most of the refugees went on to a third country but some stayed and became permanent residents.
In the context of that past arrangement, Aquino said: "If this proposed agreement is not one of a transitory nature, is not one of just being a transit point but actually relocating this people here...we feel we are not in a capacity at this point in time to afford permanent residency to these people."
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose earlier confirmed the meeting between Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.
"The global discourse on the issue of migration and refugees was also discussed in the context of how each country is finding ways to fulfill its international obligation," Jose earlier said.
Australia has already struck a deal with Cambodia to accept refugees in exchange for millions of dollars in aid over the next 4 years. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com