Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima welcomed the issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 163 relative to access to protection services for refugees, stateless persons, and asylum seekers.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said the signing of the EO is signifies to the world that the Philippines is a safe haven for refugees who leave their homes in hopes to live a more dignified and peaceful life abroad.
“EO 163 on the protection of refugees, stateless persons, and asylum seekers is a laudable issuance of the Duterte Administration, considering that it has otherwise regularly attacked international human rights instruments and principles,” she said.
“It signifies the country’s dedication to helping and providing sanctuary to those forced to flee other countries due to war, persecution, or other involuntary causes,” she added.
President Duterte signed EO No. 163 last Feb. 28 mandating efforts to protect refugees, stateless persons and asylum seekers to comply with the Philippines’ obligations under international agreements.
Under the order, the Philippines acknowledges the importance and enduring relevance of the 1951 United Nations (UN) Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, 1954 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Person, and 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness
While the issuance of the EO is much welcome, De Lima maintained that “a law is still needed to further institutionalize and give stronger teeth to the protection mechanisms for refugees and stateless persons.”
“I am still hopeful that before we move to the next Congress, the Committee on Justice and Human Rights Chairperson Sen. Richard Gordon can calendar my proposed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1854 or the ‘Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Act of 2019’ to make sure that we have a head start for it when Congress convenes after the elections,” she added
Last July 11, 2019, De Lima filed SB No. 379 to strengthen and promote the rights of refugees and stateless persons and create the Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Board.
These measures aim to facilitate a fair and efficient procedure for status determination and eligibility for protection and strengthen the government’s cooperation and coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and other relevant institutions and agencies.
Likewise, SB No. 379 defines the rights of refugees and stateless persons, which are geared towards allowing them to live a life consistent with the dignity of all persons, as well as the obligations of the State to protect them and their reciprocal obligation to respect Philippine laws in exchange for such protection.