MALACAÑANG on Tuesday vowed assistance to some 300,000 undocumented Filipinos in the United States who are facing possible deportation, although it said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will work to prevent such a scenario.
“We are committed to the principle of extending protection to all Filipino nationals wherever they may be and that is the approach that we are taking here,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
Coloma was reacting apparently to a report published by The Manila Times on Tuesday that a huge number of US-based Filipinos may be deported unless Washington grants them Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said he had asked US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg to support the request on “humanitarian” grounds.
Majority of those who would be affected come from the Super Typhoon Yolanda-ravaged cities and municipalities in Central Visayas, it was learned.
Coloma, in a news briefing, gave the assurance that the Philippine government is ready to assist the distressed Filipinos.
“All we need is to verify this information and we have asked the [DFA] to verify [it]this morning,” said the Palace official.
Coloma’s office forwarded a response from DFA spokesperson Charles Jose past noon also on Tuesday indicating that they have already “formally requested” a TPS for the Philippines.
“PH [the Philippines]on 13 December 2013 formally requested the US govt to designate the country under TPS to allow eligible Filipinos to stay [and]work in US in order for them to assist in PH’s continuing recovery efforts after the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Yolanda in Central Visayas,” Jose said.
“We are now awaiting the decision of the US government on this request,” he pointed out.
Evardone earlier took note of the much-needed remittances being sent by the Filipinos to their families in the Philippines.
“For humanitarian reasons, may I ask His Excellency to support and recommend to President [Barack] Obama the immediate approval of the Philippine government’s pending request for a Temporary Protected Status for undocumented Filipinos in the United States. Once the TPS designation is made, out-of-status Filipinos in the US could help fast-track our rebuilding efforts and economic recovery from the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda through their monthly remittances to their respective families,” Evardone said in his letter to Goldberg.
A TPS would defer the deportation of these Filipinos, thus enabling them to continue working in the US. It, however, does not grant them permanent resident status.
When asked if President Benigno Aquino 3rd may raise the issue with Obama during the US president’s visit to Manila on April 28, Coloma said there are certain protocols that have to be followed.
“We will verify from the Department of Foreign Affairs because these are issues that are taken up through diplomatic channels as well,” he explained.
It was learned that the Philippines’ request for TPS, as confirmed by Jose, is pending before the Office of Secretary of State John Kerry. Should Kerry approve it, the request would also have to go through the Department of Homeland Security for the TPS to take effect.
At least 20 American senators have already expressed support for the TPS request.
Meanwhile, Coloma said Aquino and Obama are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, probably including the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that will allow temporary basing rights for US troops in the country.
But he added that the agreement is yet to be wrapped up by the Philippine and US panels that are working on it.
“We can reasonably expect that the two heads of state will discuss topics of mutual concern in the aspects of defense and security, economic relations and other areas that are regularly considered by both countries,” the Palace official said.