Koko: PH should help Rohingya refugees

By , on September 20, 2017

FILE: Rohingya Muslim refugees in Arakan, Bangladesh (Kisa Kuyruk / Shutterstock)
FILE: Rohingya Muslim refugees in Arakan, Bangladesh (Kisa Kuyruk / Shutterstock)

The Philippine government should give aid to the Bangladeshi government in solving the escalating Rohingya refugee crisis, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said on Wednesday.

“Thousands of Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh for safety, and the country’s resources will understandably be stretched as it helps deal with this humanitarian crisis,” said Senate chief. We must do anything and everything we can to help,” Pimentel said.

An estimated 380,000 Rohingya refugees are pouring into Bangladesh to escape alleged attacks by Myanmar security forces.

Additionally, the United Nations (UN) estimates that apart from the 380,000 refugees that have already crossed into Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar, more Rohingya refugees continue to arrive daily.

Pimental said one way the Philippines can help is for the Department of Justice (DOJ), Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to run after Philippine-based money launderers who had a hand in stealing 81 million dollars from the Bangladesh bank.

“While 15 million out of the 81 million dollars have been recovered and returned to the Bangladeshi government, we must not stop there and must continue to assist Bangladeshi authorities until the full amount is recovered because they need every cent,” Pimentel added.

Last year, the Bangladesh Bank account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was the victim of hackers who tried to steal nearly one billion US dollars.

While 30 of the 35 transactions were interrupted by the Federal Reserve Bank, five transactions involving 81 million US dollars entered the Philippines through Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) using several false accounts.

The funds were laundered through some of the country’s casinos, which are currently not covered by the AMLA.

The BSP levied a record-setting fine on the RCBC, amounting to one billion pesos, which the bank has already settled in full.

Pimentel also said that the existing Rohingya refugee crisis added to the “urgency” involved in the recovery of the Bangladesh Bank’s funds.

Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),  noted that Bangladeshi communities have shown “remarkable generosity,” welcoming refugees into their homes and sharing resources with them.

As the refugees continue to arrive, however, UN agencies reiterated the urgent need for additional funds to provide protection and life-saving assistance.