With the global mandate of reducing statelessness worldwide, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has partnered with the Philippine Government since 2010 to “promote as well as develop standards and operational responses in addressing the situation faced by stateless persons and people at risk of statelessness in the Philippines.”
The registration and distribution of birth certificates in Glan on May 30 was yet the first of the series of distributions expected in areas in Southern Philippines where there are known Indonesian population like Cotabato, Davao and Balut Island.
Atty. Fondevilla stressed this initiative would provide PIDs “legal protection” and eventually would enable them to “access the basic services that will be provided by the government.”
Atty. Fondevilla stressed that authorities should hold personal interviews with the PIDs since some of them lack necessary documents to prove their identity.
With over 2,400 PIDs registered in Glan, the municipality has one of the largest populations of PIDs in the country, according to the UNHCR in a media advisory
“Glan and the Northern Sulawesi province of Indonesia are separated by 200 kilometres of sea travel, and migration between the two islands is not uncommon,” the UNHCR said. “However, because of the unfamiliarity with citizenship laws of the Philippines and Indonesia, as well as limited access to information about their rights, most of these PIDs are exposed to the risk of statelessness.”
The UNHCR said “civil registration is one way by which statelessness can be reduced.”
By receiving their free birth certificates and having their citizenships confirmed by representatives from the Governments of the Philippines and Indonesia, the PIDs will finally be able to enjoy the full extent of their rights.
The Philippines is a signatory to the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. It is also the first Southeast Asian country to adopt international legal standard to keep stateless persons from falling into legal limbo. Since 2011, it has been working together with the Government of Indonesia and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in bringing legal protection to over 8,000 PIDs in Mindanao island.
In 2016, Glan Mayor Victor James Yap Sr. approved a Sangguniang Bayan resolution exempting PIDs from payment of civil registration fees, late registration of birth, and clerical correction of entries in civil registration documents that benefited PIDs who were not able to secure the document due to financial constraints.
Orong Lahindo, 74, and his wife Venicia Panggilawan, 50, were among those who benefited from this initiative. They expressed gratefulness for finally having their birth certificates.
This programme is also in partnership with the Bureau of Immigration, National Statistics Office, Local Civil Registrar, and the Public Attorney’s Office. (Beverly C. Paoyon /SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)