Philippine bishops extend welcome to Ukrainian refugees in the Philippines
by Stefano Vecchia

The Bishops' Conference backs an executive order signed by Duterte protecting people fleeing the conflict in Europe. Meanwhile, discontent is growing among Filipinos over the government’s failure to condemn Moscow in the name of its policy of neutrality. Concerns are fuelled by the dispute with China over maritime borders.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Philippine Church is taking action in the name of international solidarity in order to welcome refugees from the conflict in Ukraine.

Bishop Ruperto Cruz Santos of Balanga, vice president of the Commission for migrants and itinerant people of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), expressed the Church's support for concrete steps to welcome refugees.

This follows a recent appeal by the CBCP to the warrying parties to lay down their weapons and start talks to end the suffering of the Ukrainian population and launched specific prayer initiatives,

Speaking to Radio Veritas, Bishop Santos cited Executive Order 163 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte to protect Ukrainian asylum seekers as “our gift to the whole world”, which the CBCP and the Stella Maris Center are ready to support.

Meanwhile, two more authoritative voices have joined the call for the country to play a more incisive role in this emergency.

Former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio urged the government to join the international pressure on Moscow. In his view, “a policy of mutual defence with other states to allow a balance of forces” is “the only antidote that a weak state can use against the invasion or annexation by a powerful neighbouring state.”

The reference here is to China with which the Philippines has a long dispute over internal seas.

Richard Heydarian, geopolitics expert and government adviser, spoke of Manila's “deplorable case of toxic neutrality” in connection with President Rodrigo Duterte’s policy of neutrality and hostility towards closer strategic relations with the United States, the Philippines’ traditional ally.

Within the country, many are calling for greater involvement based on a “moral stance” vis-à-vis the invasion and urging the authorities to undertake humanitarian initiatives within the country itself, which in the past took in large numbers of refugees from Indochina.

This position is gaining ground among the country’s political forces and in civil society as more and more people are interested in the fate of Filipinos in Ukraine and the hardships the Ukrainian people face today.

According to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, 199 Filipinos have been evacuated from Ukraine so far, but others remain in the European country or are on their way to safety.