MANILA, Oct. 27 (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday that the government has not yet agreed to Australia’s proposal that the Philippines accept refugees since the country cannot accommodate those who want permanent residency.
“There is no agreement. There is a proposal propounded by the Australian government and we are seriously considering it and studying the matter,” President Aquino said during the Annual Presidential Forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), held at the Solaire Resort in Parañaque City.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, have discussed the matter on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
President Aquino recalled that the Philippines helped Indo-Chinese refugees by serving as a transit point for the displaced people.
“There was a general agreement that they would move on to third countries. We would be a transit point that will exist for probably two or three years. The engagement actually was 15 years and we had to take in several hundred thousands in that period of time, some of whom have actually become permanent residents in the country,” he said.
He however noted that the Philippines has a bigger population than Australia.
“We have challenges to meeting the needs of our people right now. We would want to assist but there are limitations as to how far we can assist,” the President said, pointing out that if Australia’s proposal requires the Philippines to be more than just a transit point, then “we are not in a capacity at this point to afford permanent residency for these people.”
Australia wants to send refugees who reach its shores to the Philippines under an arrangement.
It already has a multi-million dollar deal to resettle refugees from an Australia-run detention camp on the Pacific nation of Nauru to Cambodia. Only a few refugees have so far taken up the offer.
Some observers have noted the similarity in the situation of Cambodia and the Philippines, saying that refugees have to find education and secure jobs and they are unlikely to get those in the Philippines. (PNA)