Friday, February 15, 2013

UN refugee body hails PH Congress for bill on displaced people


From the Website of Philippine Daily Inquirer
links: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/63849/un-refugee-body-hails-ph-congress-for-bill-on-displaced-people


UN refugee body hails PH Congress for bill on displaced people

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
7:45 pm | Saturday, February 9th, 2013
 
MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations refugee agency has lauded the Philippine Congress for passing a bill protecting people displaced by conflict and natural disasters, calling the development a “milestone” for a country where an estimated one million people are internally displaced.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday welcomed Philippine legislation that would “safeguard citizens against arbitrary displacement,” saying the measure could serve as a model for other countries. 

The bill was passed by Congress on Wednesday and would be up for signing by President Benigno Aquino III, said the UNHCR. Once signed into law, the measure will be a first in the Asia-Pacific. 


“For the first time, we will have a specific law in the region that can make a difference in the lives of people who have fled and run for their lives due to conflict and disaster,” said Bernard Kerblat, the UNHCR’s representative in the Philippines.

“We trust that the Philippines will carry on this good work of rebuilding the lives of the displaced as the bill establishes a system to protect people and give them assistance. We hope, too, that other countries in the region will follow suit,” he said in a statement.
The bill provides for the prevention of internal displacement and also stipulates rights of IDPs “during and after people have been forced to leave their homes,” the refugee agency said. 

The measure, which the UN deems at par with international standards on the protection of IDPs, also penalizes arbitrary internal displacement of any person, including “non-combatants caught in the crossfire of internal armed conflicts.” 

The legislation also provides compensation for the death of a loved one or property loss or damage in an incident that caused arbitrary displacement, the UN said.  The bill appoints the Commission on Human Rights as the “focal point for protection” of displaced people.
“This measure is a milestone for the protection of internally displaced people in the Philippines, where decades-long armed conflicts and many natural disasters have caused massive displacement, especially in the Mindanao region,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in Geneva. 

Estimates of the refugee agency show that some 300,000 more people were displaced in Mindanao between January and October 2012 alone due to natural disasters and armed conflict.  Thousands more were displaced in the aftermath of Typhoon Pablo, which hit Mindanao provinces in December.




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