President Rodrigo Duterte has issued an executive order (EO) institutionalizing access to protection services for refugees, stateless persons, and asylum seekers or POCs.
EO 163, signed by Duterte on February 28, 2022, institutionalizes an Inter-Agency Committee on the Protection of Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Asylum Seekers to assure the provision of relevant services and assistance to POCs pursuant to the 2017 Inter-Agency Agreement.
“In this regard, the state shall closely monitor and ensure full protection of the rights of persons of concern to liberty and security, and freedom of movement. Subject to applicable laws and
issuances, the minimum standards for the treatment of refugees shall be assured,” the EO states.
“These shall include the provision of access to socioeconomic services, social security benefits, gainful employment and humane working conditions, education, participation in judicial and
administrative citizenship proceedings, legal assistance and access to courts, and freedom of religion.”
The EO is in accordance with the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, the 1954 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Person, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
The POCs have the “concomitant obligation to abide by the laws and regulations of the country, including measures relating to the protection of public health, and maintenance of public order and national security.”
The local government units (LGUs) are encouraged to support the integration of the POCs within their communities, conduct information and awareness campaigns, and make available the necessary programs and services to facilitate such integration in local development frameworks, including development programming and emergency response and recovery frameworks.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has limited the ability of refugees, stateless persons and asylum seekers to cross borders to seek protection, bringing to fore the need to integrate and institutionalize relevant policies and programs of government agencies and ensure that these communities of people are properly protected and accorded the widest possible exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms,” the EO read.
The Philippines is one of the few countries in the region to have acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 protocol, according to the website of the UN refugee agency.