Let us help the refugees of the world
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2019 - 12:00am

Despite the Philippine struggle to give a better life for its own poor, it has the admirable record of accepting and helping refugees. The best known example of this magnanimity is when it took in Jewish refugees who were rejected by almost every country in the world during the Nazi period.

People were shocked to discover the atrocities and systematic killing of Jews, but the Philippines was one of the few countries, if not the only country in the world to accept them and give them shelter as they combed the world for help.

At least 1,300 Jewish refugees were taken in by the Philippines through a wise decision of then President Manuel L. Quezon. Whatever was the politics behind this magnanimous act the fact became historical – the Philippines became known as a country which helps refugees.

’The people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was willing to extend a welcome hand.’

Philippine hospitality was once again on show when it accepted refugees at the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. Some of them flourished when they started new lives in the Philippines. They entered through hazards of taking boats in stormy seas but were relieved when Filipinos welcomed them instead of shooing them away. The same hospitality was given to refugees from Spain during Franco’s time and the Chinese Koumintang.

Today there are thousands of Rohingya refugee families in Bangladesh escaping violence.

Once again Philippine hospitality is being called upon for help. They fled to Bangladesh and now live in crowded camps. The refugees are being helped by the UNHCR but the camps are so inundated and food so scarce they are appealing for help from the outside world.

My daughter, Veronica Pedrosa, once CNN and Al-Jazeera anchor, is helping with the refugee crisis especially because the victims are mostly children. Help is needed today more than ever. https://www.philstar.com/…/2019/02/23/18…/stop-war-children

The same is happening in Syria with families being torn by the war. It remains the largest refugee crisis in the world. As fighting in their war-torn country continues, Syrian families are locked into a cycle of violence, displacement, and crushing humanitarian need.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency on the ground protecting those most at risk, said we can’t do this alone. We are critically short of funds to respond.

Many Syrians are forced to leave their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their back. Humanitarian assistance is their only lifeline for survival.

When the ASEAN conference was going on in Manila President Duterte was silent on the Rohingya massacre in deference to Aung San Suu Kyi, but lately he has come forward as the leader of a hospitable country.

President Rodrigo Duterte said on TV “genocide” was taking place in Myanmar and he was willing to accept Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing from it, but coaxed wealthier Europe countries to help as well.

“Send them to us. We will accept them,” the president says at a time many Western nations are closing their borders.

“I really pity the people there,” Duterte said. “I’m willing to accept refugees. Rohingyas, yes. I will help but we should split them with Europe.” In other words all must help.

He also mentioned the inability of the international community to resolve problems in Myanmar. His words have been noted because such a denunciation is not expected by a Southeast Asian leader to another leader.

Both the Philippines and Myanmar are members of the Association of South East Asian Nations which has long upheld a convention of withholding criticism of fellow members.

With statements like these, President Duterte’s independent foreign policy is paying off in favor of a strong, independent  Philippines. When our President can address the world, other countries of whatever ideology listen to him.

Never mind the shrill attacks of the lack of freedom of the press by the Omidyar sponsored Maria Ressa. It didn’t work.

Instead the Philippine president received gracious treatment from both superpowers US and China in the last few days.

From the US came a reiteration of friendship between the two countries despite the animosities from the South China Sea dispute.

The American delegation, the US-Philippine American Society, was headed by Ambassador Sung Kim. The group declared support for Duterte’s campaign against the illegal drug trade. President Duterte told the group he will continue the fight against the drug trade for the remaining time of his term.

Different issues were covered in the conversation between the American delegation and the Philippine president. Duterte assured the American delegation that the relationship between the US and the Philippines remains strong.

In the same week Chinese Ambassador Zhao also paid a courtesy call on President Duterte. The ambassador and the President talked on many issues on China-Philippines relations.

In a press release from the Chinese embassy it was emphasized that the two countries will fulfill “signed agreements and important consensus reached during the visit of President Xi Jinping to the Philippines and highlighted the pragmatic cooperation of the two countries in areas such as security, trade, and people-to-people exchanges as well as coordination on international and regional issues, in order to bring about more tangible benefits to the two peoples.”

President Duterte  is expected to attend the upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held in Beijing this April 2019.

Ambassador Zhao said he would coordinate with the relevant Philippine agencies in preparation for President Duterte’s visit. President Duterte thanked China’s invitation and said he was keen to meet with President Xi once again.

What it all means is that President Duterte’s independent foreign policy is working and his statements resonate to other countries.

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