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President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday offered Filipino citizenship to Rohingya refugees as he reiterated his willingness to accept them into the country.
“I am willing to accept Rohingyas. ‘Yung talagang walang mapuntahan tatanggapin ko ‘yan, gawain kong Pilipino,” he said in a speech before a convention of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines at the Manila Hotel.
Duterte said in April last year that the Philippines was willing to provide sanctuary for Rohingya fleeing what he called "genocide” in Myanmar, a remark that prompted a Myanmar government spokesman to respond that the President had no restraint and knew nothing about their country.
The President then issued a public apology to Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for saying genocide was taking place in her country and clarified that he was hitting out at European countries which had accused Myanmar of human rights violations, but did little to help the Rohingya.
Hundreds of thousands of people, most of them Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group, have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh in groups since August 2017 when Rohingya militant attacks on security forces sparked a military crackdown.
The UN and several Western countries have accused Myanmar of ethnic cleansing, which Myanmar denies.
Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said last year that the Philippines had facilities that could accommodate refugees, citing a processing center in Bataan.
Roque added that the Philippine government had an "open-door policy" for refugees.
In 1975, the Philippine government accommodated thousands of Vietnamese refugees who fled their country after the Vietnam War ended. The facility Roque cited, the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC), hosted many of them.
The Philippines under then-President Manuel Quezon gave refuge to Jews escaping the Holocaust in the late 1930s. — BAP, GMA News
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