During this time of pandemic, I discovered the beauty of the Philippines through vlogs on YouTube. Ironically, these vlogs are made by foreigners who so adore our country.
One such vlog is by this young Austrian couple. They started out as tourists. They have been to more places in the country than I have been to. They ended up having a place of their own and are living here permanently.
The man is Austrian and his girlfriend, if I am right, is originally from Bosnia. She used to be a refugee in Austria. As I watch their vlogs, I wonder how her life was like when she and her family sought refuge in Austria.
It seems they integrated themselves well into the society. I admire them for adapting well. But I salute more Austria for providing them all the assistance and opportunities to make them just as Austrian as its nationals.
I compared Austria to our country. I could not help but wonder. I know we have refugees here, too. Do they have opportunities to make them blend well in our society? I know we Filipinos are very hospitable and accommodating.
But apart from that, does the government open many avenues to them, just as it does to its nationals?
So, I hit the Internet.
In just a few clicks, I came across Department of the Interior and Local Government Memorandum Circular (MC) 2020-153.
Its subject — Assistance to Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Stateless Persons in the Philippines recognized by the Department of Justice-Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit.
Said memorandum takes care of the welfare of refugees, stateless persons and asylum seekers in our country. It enjoins all local government units to ensure they are every inch woven into society.
Thus it declares, “(T)he Philippines is a State Party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, which outlines the rights and obligations of refugees and stateless persons, as well as the responsibility of States to uphold and protect the basic rights of refugees and stateless persons.
I know we have refugees here, too. Do they have opportunities to make them blend well in our society?
“This Memorandum Circular (MC) is being issued in line with the commitment made by the DILG… to institutionalize the ad hoc assistance being extended by LGU in accordance with the Philippines’ commitment to ensure that all refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons in the Philippines have fair and equal access to assistance, protection, and durable solutions at all times.
“Residence permits and other relevant documents must be issued to (them)… for universal access to services (i.e., social services, financial institutions). (Section 4.1)”
“All LGU must assure that public spaces, services and institutions are equally accessible and beneficial for all sectors of the community. (Section 4.2.1)”
“All LGU shall assist all refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons in adapting to the local economy and improve their connectivity and access to better opportunities. (Section 4.3.1)” “All LGU shall engage the local educational system in ensuring inclusive and equal access to education for all (of them). (Section 4.4.1)”
“All LGU shall ensure that (they) have equal access to health care services. (Section 4.5.1)”
“LGU shall ensure that local policies and community values promote a multicultural environment. (Section 4.6.1)”
Finally, “(I)n providing assistance to (them), all LGU may request for the assistance of their Local Peace and Order Councils (POC) to further ensure the protection and safety of these individuals. (Section 4.7.1.)”
Indubitably, this memorandum deals with almost every aspect of their lives to help them incorporate seamlessly into society. Opportunities are given so they can live normal lives.
Thus, they become just as Filipino as we are. How nice of the State to ensure their welfare, even especially at this time.
The MC was released only on 10 November 2020. We would sometimes expect that all focus nowadays will just be on eradication of the virus.
“This MC is also being issued… to mobilize the necessary resources in undertaking the critical and appropriate disaster preparedness and response efforts in a timely manner to contain and eliminate the spread of COVID-19 and to continue to provide basic services to the affected population. (Section 2.2)”
This highlights that the State equally treats everyone, regardless of race or color.
That is how good life is in the Philippines. No wonder a multitude of foreigners, be they tourists, refugees or what have you, eventually end up falling in love with the Philippines and claim it their very own homeland.