The Philippines is willing to provide refuge to the people of Afghanistan who are fleeing their country following the collapse of its government, Malacanang said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement as thousands of Afghans fled the South Asian country after the Taliban took control of the capital Kabul on Monday.
Meanwhile, 35 Filipinos who were evacuated by their respective companies from Afghanistan arrived Tuesday in Manila via Doha, Qatar.
They joined the plane the Department of Foreign Affairs chartered from Doha to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1, the Philippine Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan reported.
“Since time immemorial, the Philippines has had jurisprudence even before the Convention on Refugees Welcoming Asylum Seekers,” Roque said in a press briefing.
DFA said it is exploring all possible ways to ensure the safe repatriation of the remaining Filipinos in Afghanistan out of an estimated 130 total, as the security situation there becomes volatile.
"The DFA is working non-stop to explore all options to ensure the safety and welfare of our people in Afghanistan in the face of challenging conditions. We seek your patience as we try to accomplish this sensitive mission," DFA Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications Eduardo Meñez told reporters on Tuesday.
The department raised alert level 4 on Sunday and ordered the mandatory repatriation for Filipinos in Afghanistan.
Citing the Supreme Court decision in the case of Kookooritchkin vs. Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation, Roque said the Philippines will not hesitate to admit individuals fleeing their homelands because of fear of persecution.
Manila has a long history of accepting refugees dating as far back as World War II, Roque said.
He said the Philippine government would open its doors to refugees if they would like to seek asylum in the country.
"We welcome asylum seekers here in the Philippines," Roque said.
However, Roque did not say if the Philippines would recognize the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan as legitimate, but said it was within the jurisdiction of the DFA.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte himself reiterated the Philippines' willingness to accept refugees in his first-ever speech before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September 2020.
"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 said.
"Thanks to the companies they worked for; we had nothing to do with it. But we’re on to taking out those without sponsors. Filipino community leaders took the lead to assemble their compatriots for takeout at instant’s notice," Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said in a separate tweet.
Commercial airspace in the South Asian nation has been shut while foreign troops struggle to keep the Afghan capital's airport functional.
On Monday, chaos ensued at the Kabul airport as desperate Afghans, fearing for the worst under Taliban's rule, scrambled to escape the country.
Videos of people chasing an American military plane while taxiing the runway circulated online. In some clips, the civilians were seen hanging on the engine as the plane took off at Kabul Airport, two of whom were seen falling from the sky.
According to Afghanistan’s UN ambassador Ghulam Isaczai, there are already reports of target killings and looting in Kabul.
“Kabul residents are reporting that Taliban have already started house to house searches in some neighborhoods in Kabul, registering names and looking for people in their target list," he said.
In a Monday tweet, Locsin joined the United Nations in its appeal to preserve international humanitarian law and human rights, especially the hard-won gains of women and girls in the country.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres at an emergency session of the Security Council said: “The following days will be pivotal” and "we cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan.”
He stressed that the Security Council must "stand as one, and ensure that human rights are upheld, humanitarian aid continues, and that the country does not again become a platform for terrorism."