MANILA — A high-ranking official of the Catholic Church official said the country has moral obligation to protect from harm the refugees from Myanmar who are stranded at sea.
“While it may be true that there is no legal obligation on the part of the Republic of the Philippines or that of any other country to grant asylum to every refugee or displaced person, there is a moral obligation to protect them from the harm they flee from,” said Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Socrates Villegas in a statement.
He added, “There is a legal obligation not to forcibly repatriate them. And by all precepts of morality and decency, there is an obligation not to leave them to the mercilessness of the elements on the high seas.”
The Lingayen-Dagupan prelate is referring to the Rohingyan migrants should they land on Philippine soil.
At the same time, Villegas lauded the government who is ready to help the Asian migrants.
“We laud our government for its attitude of hospitality towards refugees, even as we urge other nations in the region, in the name of our common humanity and the common Father we recognize, to allow these refugees succor and assistance,” he said.
The head of the CBCP added, “For while our own economic resources may not allow us to welcome every migrant as a permanent resident of our country, still there is always room for the weary and burdened to rest on our shores before they continue on their journey.”
He said that the country had been a host to Vietnamese people many years ago.
“Decades ago, the Philippines was host to the “boat people”, hundreds if not thousands of Vietnamese fleeing their homeland, following the fall of what was then called Saigon. Our country then served as some kind of a way-station, because our Vietnamese guests soon found their way to other parts of the globe,” he said.
At the same time, Villegas was saddened by the refusal of some countries in the region to give these people temporary shelter.
“It is however a saddening fact that some countries in our Southeast Asian region have turned these refugees away, refusing them the comfort of even just a temporary stay,” he said.