Philippines commits to upholding refugees’ protection, welfare

2024 June 21

PROTECTING REFUGEES. Department of Justice Chief State Counsel Dennis Arvin Chan speaks at the first National Refugee Day Forum at the Philippine International Convention Center on Thursday (June 20, 2024). Chan said the government is employing whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, with the help of various stakeholders, to ensure a robust protection mechanism accessible to these population groups. (Photo courtesy of DOJ)

MANILA – The Philippines has committed to sustaining and prioritizing the protection and welfare of refugees, political asylums, and stateless persons.

Officials of the Department of Justice made this vow during the celebration of the first-ever National Refugee Day Forum at the Philippine International Convention Center on Thursday, the agency said in a news release Friday.

DOJ Chief State Counsel Dennis Arvin Chan said the national observance solidifies the preparedness of the Philippines to protect and uphold the rights of populations at risk of statelessness.

He said the government is employing whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, with the help of various stakeholders, to ensure a robust protection mechanism accessible to these population groups.

“I would like to reaffirm the commitment of the DOJ in this noble advocacy of enhancing and ensuring the protection environment for all the forcibly displaced,” Chan said.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla vowed to “faithfully sustain” the Philippine government’s commitment to its international partners.

“The State is whole-heartedly committed to upholding its international comity and relations with paramount consideration at all times, the Philippines will perpetually remain as a home, and its people a family, to our brothers and sisters overseas seeking refuge,” Remulla said.

Proclamation No. 265, series of 2023, declares June 20 of every year as the “National Refugee Day”, and mandates all agencies and instrumentalities of the national government, including Government-Owned or-Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), state universities and colleges, local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and even the private sector, to actively participate and support the effective implementation thereof.

This also coincides with World Refugee Day to recognize and honor the resilience displayed by all individuals who have been forced to flee due to conflict, violence, and ultimately, persecution.

Remulla said this is also aligned with Manila’s longstanding humanitarian tradition to keep its doors open to provide international protection to the forcibly displaced and stateless persons and assist them in finding durable solutions to their circumstances.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Assistant Protection Officer Lindsey Atienza, meanwhile, commended the Philippine government, adding that the forum is a testament to the country’s commitment to fostering dialogue, collaboration, and innovation in addressing the challenges faced by those at risk of statelessness.

“It serves as a platform to share best practices, identify gaps, and develop strategies that will lead to the formulation of policies that are responsive to the needs of people we work for and with and the communities that host them,” she said.

At the end of 2023, Atienza said an estimated 117.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations.

She added that the number has grown to more than 120 million by May this year.

The celebration highlighted the country’s unwavering efforts to uphold international comity by opening its borders to people forced to flee their homelands amidst violence, war, or political persecution. 

Marita Moaje (PNA)