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Palace stresses anew its readiness to help Rohingya ‘boat people’

Malacanañg on Sunday stressed again its readiness to provide humanitarian relief to thousands of the  Rohingya "boat people” from Myanmar and Bangladesh adrift in the Andaman Sea.

In an interview on state-owned dzRB radio, Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the Philippine government is prepared to assist the Burmese and Bangladeshi nationals who fled their countries but had been turned away from neighboring countries.

“Bilang signatory sa United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, at doon sa isa pa ring convention, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, ang pahayag po natin ay malinaw: Magbibigay po tayo ng makataong pagtrato. We are prepared to provide humanitarian succor and relief,” he said.

Malacañang earlier said the Philippine government is working with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) to come up with concrete steps to help the migrants.

It has also expressed openness to protect and accept the refugees if they reach the country’s territory.

Rohingya Muslims are said to comprise a significant number of the refugees now adrift at sea, while the rest are Bangladeshi nationals trying to escape the poverty in their country.

Most of the 1.1 million Rohingyas who live in Myanmar are stateless and face ethnic and religious persecution.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has confirmed that the Philippines will send a contingent to a regional meeting arranged by the Thai government on May 29 to to discuss the refugees’ plight.

At least 15 countries and three United Nations (UN) organizations have committed to the meeting, including the US, Australia and several countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Even Myanmar and Bangladesh have already promised to attend, De Lima added. — Xianne Arcangel/BM, GMA News