The president Rodrigo Duterte offers Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh citizenship as a sign of humanitarian assistance.
The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that he wants to offer citizenship to Rohingya refugees, publicly expressing solidarity with the persecuted minority group for a third time since 2015.
“I am willing to accept Rohingyas to the country,” the president said before he joined the Philippines' League of Municipalities convention in the capital Manila.
Rohingya people are considered the largest stateless population since Myanmar has declined to give the minority group citizenship.
Duterte’s offer comes at a time when tens of hundreds of refugees are looking for a better life and conditions and to flee the risk of being sent back to Myanmar. The majority of Rohingya refugees, more than 700,000, have fled to Bangladesh, due in part to geographical proximity.
But Bangladesh is overburdened and has started to repatriate refugees to Myanmar. Many of those who fled to Bangladesh set up settlements in the city of Cox’s Bazar - a border town with only 164,000 locals.
The two largest camps of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which are at the Bangladeshi bordering region of Chittagong, are oversubscribed after thousands of Rohingya people fled widespread persecution and murder by Myanmar soldiers and security forces in 2016.
Since then thousands more have attempted to set up makeshift camps in the vicinity, resulting in more than 30 unregistered settlements.
Philippines friendly towards Rohingya refugees
President Duterte said in April last year that the state of Philippines wants to give refuge to Rohingyas fleeing persecution and violence in Myanmar.
As a response to the Philippine president’s remark about a ‘genocide’ being committed, a Myanmar government spokesperson responded that Duterte has no restraint or knowledge about Myanmar.
Duterte apologised for calling the persecution of the Rohingya a ‘genocide’ to the de facto political leader Aung San Suu Kyi and bilateral relations between both states ‘opened a new chapter’, according to the presidency of Myanmar.
The Philippines is a Christian majority country.
Only four percent are Muslims mainly living in the southern islands of the country. Religious tolerance towards Muslims by president Duterte has been seen recently, with the initiative for a more autonomously ruled region by local Muslims - named the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Minority Muslims in the southern Philippines cast votes in January this year in a long-awaited referendum on autonomy, the culmination of a peace process to end decades of separatist conflict in a region plagued by poverty, banditry and terrorism.
Duterte previously called on Europe to participate in the reception of more than 700,000 Muslim refugees from Myanmar.
Duterte said he was willing to accept refugees in the majority Catholic Philippines: "I feel sorry for these people," he said. "But we must share this task with Europe.”