MALACAÑANG on Monday said the government will assist so-called “boat people” who will stray into the country’s shores and not push them back like what Indonesia and Thailand did.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a statement, belied a story carried by a major daily (not The Manila Times) that the Philippines will push back refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar who were abandoned at sea by human traffickers following a crackdown by the Thai government.
“The Philippines has extended humanitarian assistance to ‘boat people’ and had even established a processing center for Vietnamese travelers in the seventies,” the official noted.
Coloma explained that the Philippines, being a state party to agreements on the proper treatment of refugees, such as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, is one with the United Nations (UN) in calling for assistance to the distressed illegal migrants.
“(The Philippines has) concretely manifested its solidarity with the United Nations in providing succor and relief to persons involuntarily displaced from their homelands as a consequence of political conflict,” the Palace spokesman said.
“We shall continue to do our share in saving lives under existing and long-standing mechanisms pursuant to our commitments under the Convention,” he emphasized.
The UN had appealed to the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)—such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia—not to shoo boat migrants for humanitarian reasons.
Despite the appeal, about 2,500 migrants who landed on Indonesia’s western shores were towed back to sea. Likewise, two boats that crossed the Malacca Strait from the Thailand-Malaysia side were denied entry.
The UN has warned the situation could develop into a “massive humanitarian disaster.”