Press Release
June 16, 2023

Tolentino proposes open door policy for Afghan refugees

MANILA - In light of the persisting humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Senator Francis "TOL" N. Tolentino favors the Philippine government's initiative to extend help to Afghans who have been tragically affected by war.

With a resolute commitment to human rights and international solidarity, Tolentino, vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations calls for swift actions, similar to those undertaken during the Quezon and Duterte administrations, to provide temporary refuge and support to vulnerable individuals seeking safety and stability.

The escalating crisis in Afghanistan has resulted in immense suffering, displacement, and uncertainty for countless innocent civilians.

Tolentino emphasizes the importance of demonstrating Filipinos' shared humanity by assisting those fleeing violence and persecution. Tolentino notes the dire situation of Afghans affected by war that has lasted for more than two decades, such that any chance to remove innocent lives from conflict and war should be pursued compassionately.

As part of the Philippines' unwavering commitment to uphold human rights, Tolentino stresses the country's duty to render assistance to displaced persons under international law and treaties. He mentions three key legal documents the Philippines has ratified and is a signatory to, including the 1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); 2) the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol; and 3) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Proclaimed in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, Article 14 of UDHR safeguards the right to seek and enjoy asylum. In 1981, the Philippines also acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, outlining refugees' rights with the principle of non-refoulement at the cornerstone. Lastly, having ratified the ICCPR in October 1986, the Philippines is bound to uphold and protect a broad range of civil and political rights.

Tolentino also mentions Executive Order No. 163, entitled "Institutionalizing Access to Protection Services for Refugees, Stateless Persons, and Asylum Seekers," and dated 28 February 2022. Pursuant to E.O. No. 163, the Philippines has taken steps to strengthen the existing legal framework and institutionalized access to protection services for refugees, stateless persons, and asylum seekers, collectively known as "persons of concern."

Tolentino recalls that the Philippines has a proud history of extending humanitarian aid and hospitality to foreign nationals in dire need. The country has welcomed refugees and displaced persons from various corners of the globe, such as Jews, Vietnamese, Syrians, offering them safety and sanctuary.

Through the Philippine Open Door Policy primarily led by former President Manuel L. Quezon, Jewish refugees who were fleeing persecution in Europe found shelter in the Philippines. Also, following the Vietnam War, the country provided temporary shelter and assistance to Vietnamese refugees before their resettlement in other countries.

Under the administration of former President Duterte, the country recently extended assistance to Rohingya refugees fleeing war and persecution in Myanmar. Drawing upon this legacy, Tolentino urges the government and fellow Filipinos to exhibit the same spirit of empathy and solidarity towards Afghan individuals who have endured immense hardships.

Tolentino emphasizes the need for a comprehensive support system during their temporary stay in the Philippines. This includes access to temporary shelter, food supply, and healthcare, among others. According to Tolentino, Filipinos have continuously been welcomed to work and live overseas, whether temporarily or permanently. He assures that the relocation programs extended to Afghan war-affected individuals will be temporary and pre-screened to those most in need.

By working in partnership with international organizations and other countries on temporary resettlement programs, the Philippines can amplify its efforts to provide haven to vulnerable individuals. Such cooperation will also strengthen the Philippines' position as an advocate for human rights on the global stage. Tolentino says opening doors to Afghan war-affected individuals, even for a temporary period, will provide golden opportunities to start rebuilding lives.

News Latest News Feed