Duterte urges better cooperation in migrant protection, refugee aid

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2020 05:31 AM

A migrant worker repatriated from Singapore rests on a gang chair at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 while waiting to be tested for COVID-19 on May 29, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - In his first appearance at the UN General Assembly President Rodrigo Duterte urged countries to foster stronger cooperation in safeguarding migrants amid the pandemic, stressing they should be included in every country's response to the coronavirus crisis.

In a video message to the convention that aired early Wednesday (Manila time), Duterte said all UN member states must comply with the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which is an intergovernmental pact sponsored by UN on common approach to international migration.
 
"Unless states include all migrants in their response to this pandemic, 'no one among us is safe, until everyone is safe', as the [UN] Secretary-General has said," the President stressed, citing the warning of UN chief Antonio Guterres over the lack of cooperation of countries across the globe amid the pandemic.

Duterte also lauded Filipino migrant health workers at the frontlines abroad for their commitment to their job.

"Filipino migrant workers have been devastated by the pandemic. Many have lost not only their livelihood, but also their health and lives as well. Yet they go on in the frontlines, healing, caring for others in the different parts of the world," he said. 

He thanked countries that have provided Filipino migrants with residency permits and access to health services related to the pandemic.

Last June, the United Nations' International Labor Organization said millions of migrant workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic were returned home after being exceptionally exposed to the virus and the economic shutdown it triggered.

DOORS ARE OPEN

Duterte recalled the Philippines' history of welcoming refugees from conflict-torn areas, saying the country will always open its doors to displaced persons and races.

"The Philippines has a long history of opening its doors to the refugees – from the White Russians following the 1917 Revolution, the European Jews in the Second World War, the Vietnamese in the late 1960s, and the Iranians displaced by the 1979 revolution, among other," he noted.

"The Philippines continues to honor this humanitarian tradition in accordance with our obligations under the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol."

Duterte underscored assisting refugees is a "shared responsibility of all countries."

"In the face of a mounting refugee crisis worldwide, let us work together towards ending the conflicts and conditions that force people to flee their homes," he said.

The Philippines will always be open to displaced persons such as the Rohingyas, Duterte said.

Last August, almost a million Rohingya refugees stuck in Bangladesh marked three years since escaping from Myanmar. 

A Myanmar military operation, that triggered genocide charges at the UN's top court, forced 750,000 Rohingya out of the country's Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh in 2017.--With a report from Agence France-Presse