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NATURALIZATION AS A DURABLE SOLUTION FOR REFUGEES IN THE

PHILIPPINES

A CONCEPT PAPER PRESENTED TO THE


UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER ON REFUGEES

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS


FOR THE LEGAL INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

Naturalization as a durable solution for refugees in the Philippines

I.

INTRODUCTION

The United Nations defines refugee as any person who: owing to a well-founded fear of being
persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or
political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear,
is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.1
The practice of granting of asylum to people escaping persecution for reasons of race, religion,
nationality, membership of particular social group or political opinion in foreign land is one of
the biggest triumphs of civilization. Throughout history, the Philippines has been opening its
doors by giving asylum to stateless persons or other refugees. Such as during the Second World
War wherein the Government of the Philippines opened its door to Jewish Refugees by mandate
of President Quezon. Also during the end of the Vietnam War wherein President Ferdinand
Marcos opened its doors once again to Vietnamese refugees.2
This gallant practice is done through humanitarian efforts by Non-Governmental Organizations
and the collective effort of the nation as a whole. The country being a signatory of the 1951 U.N.
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and of the 1967 Protocol or the New York
Protocol, the nation strengthened its commitment to such practice. Both treaties enabled the
Philippines to become a safe haven to many stateless persons and refugees during the past
century.3
Four years ago, the Philippines was applauded by several countries and by The United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees by becoming a state-party to the 1954 Convention on Stateless
1 UNCHR Refugees, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c125.html
2The Philppines as a Haven for Refugees, Presidential Musuem and Library, available at:
http://malacanang.gov.ph/75632-historical-ph-haven-for-refugees/

3 The Philppines as a Haven for Refugees, Presidential Musuem and Library, available at:
http://malacanang.gov.ph/75632-historical-ph-haven-for-refugees/

Persons. We, as a nation, have left our mark in history as the only country in Southeast Asia to
participate in the convention. By continuing this momentum by the publishing of a Circular by
The Department of Justice of the Philippines that improved the system of determining refugee
status and such new procedure takes effect today and is an important step to ensure the
Philippines meets its obligations under the 1954 Convention.4
Right now we are faced with an opportunity continue the momentum that was laid down by past
experiences of our country. We are given the chance to enhance our current system further and to
provide ways in which Naturalization can be utilized as an effective means to finally alleviate the
struggles of Stateless Persons and Refugees in the Philippines and with this study, I am certain
that such research will be beneficial to the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees.

4 UNHCR lauds the Philippines for new mechanism to protect refugees and stateless people, available
at: http://www.unhcr.org/5098ced59.html

II.

PURPOSE OF PROPOSED STUDY

Purpose of this study is to Giving ways in which the Law on Naturalization and Dissemination
and Correct Implementation of said Laws will be used to provide concrete solutions with regard
to giving asylum to Refugees and other Stateless Persons public efficiently and effectively. The
research is proposing that the Philippine Government in coordination with several of its Agencies
further enhance the Naturalization Process to give relief to struggling Refugees based in the
Philippines by filling up gaps in the law and proposing several processes or procedures in
implementing such laws.

III.

PROPOSED STUDY

Currently in our laws, there are two generally recognized forms of acquiring Philippine
citizenship: Filipino by birth and Filipino by Naturalization.
Under Filipino by birth there are the two principles, first would be Jus soli (right of soil) which is
the legal principle that a persons nationality at birth is determined by the place of birth (e.g. the
territory of a given state). Second would be Jus sanguinis (right of blood) which is the legal
principle that, at birth, an individual acquires the nationality of his/her natural parent/s. The
Philippine adheres to the Right of Blood or Jus Sanguinis principle.
Under Filipino by naturalization however, is the judicial act of adopting a foreigner and clothing
him with the privileges of a native-born citizen. It implies the renunciation of a former
nationality and the fact of entrance into a similar relation towards a new body politic.5
In recent years, the Philippines has been presented with several issues regarding taking in
Refugees in the country with regard to their permanent status of Naturalization under the Filipino
by naturalization principle. On October 27, 2015, President Aquino through the Philippine
Government expressed his statement during a press conference at the Japan National Press Club
in Tokyo saying that the Philippines cannot afford to take in Australian-processed refugees
permanently because of a few factors to consider. During the negotiations, foreign ministers of
the two countries were in talks about a potential deal wherein Australia would provide funds to
the Philippines for relocating the refugees and such deal would be governed by International law.
The factors that were being considered by President Aquino was the Population and the Poverty
Rates of the Philippines. Aquino said:If this proposed agreement is not one of a transitory
nature, is not one of just being a transit point but actually relocating these people here. We
feel we are not in a capacity at this point in time to afford permanent residency to these people. 6

5 2Am.Jur.561,par.188
6Philippines Rejects Permanent Resettlement of Refugees from Australia, available at:
http://www.voanews.com/content/ap-philippines-studying-australian-plan-to-sendrefugees/3024450.html

We can see from this that there is a major problem in accommodating and relocating such
refugees in our country. Though we can still abide to our commitments under UN conventions on
refugees, we should still take into consideration our own resources and capabilities.
A fast general solution to this is problem is first, a clear intention from nation-states that are
asking for aid to relocated people to our country by way of naturalization in coordination with
our government and agencies, especially the Special Committee on Naturalization under the
Office of the Solicitor General. This is so there is no confusion as to the intent of the agreement
as not to duplicate the event during the 1979 agreement when the country accepted refugees
fleeing the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. More than 400,000 refugees were
processed at two locations in the Philippines for what was supposed to be a two or three year
temporary stay. However, they stayed on for 15 years and some became permanent residents. 7
Secondly, taking in Refugees in relation to the service that we can offer. Also by negotiating
funding by the host countries in relocating such refugees. With better funding the government in
assisting the transfer and accommodation of refugees will fasten the process and ultimately the
government may take in more refugees in the future. Lastly, Strict implementation and Faster
response from the Government. Naturalization Laws should be applied to refugees in a way that
it would be beneficial to their transfer here in the country. By way of naturalization, refugees are
deemed as adopting a foreigner and clothing him with the privileges of a native-born citizen
within the country. Privileges would pertain to all the rights that are laid down in the Bill of
Rights under the Constitution. With this simple and general ideas in alleviating the problems of
Refugees by way of Naturalization, I believe we can achieve more in upholding the mandate of
the UNHCR.

7 Philippines Rejects Permanent Resettlement of Refugees from Australia, available at:


http://www.voanews.com/content/ap-philippines-studying-australian-plan-to-sendrefugees/3024450.html