108 Indonesians living in Sarangani province ‘no longer stateless’

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 June) – At least 108 Persons of Indonesian Descent (PIDs) living in Glan, Sarangani for years are no longer “stateless” after they were finally registered, an official said Tuesday.

Lawyer Ruben Fondevilla, Department of Justice assistant chief state counsel, said the Indonesians received their birth certificates in line with the provisions of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Fondevilla said the registration of the Indonesians is an offshoot of a bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and Indonesia.

“The ministers of these countries believed the “importance of determining the legal status of the Indonesian descendants in Southern Philippines with the view of providing them better legal protection,” he said.

One hundred eight Persons of Indonesian Descent residing in Glan for several years wait for their turn to receive their birth certificates in ceremonies at Glan Municipal Hall on May 30 under the auspices of the Department of Justice and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Photo courtesy of Sarangani Information Office

By receiving their free birth certificates and having their citizenship 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, Fondevilla explained.

With the global mandate of reducing statelessness worldwide, the 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 last week was the first of the series of distributions expected in areas in Mindanao where there are known Indonesian populations like Cotabato, Davao and Balut Island in Sarangani town, Davao Occidental.

Fondevilla stressed this initiative would provide PIDs with “legal protection” and eventually enable them to “access the basic services that will be provided by the government.”

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.”

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, according to the Provincial Information Office.

This programme is also in partnership with the Bureau of Immigration, National Statistics Office, Local Civil Registrar, and the Public Attorney’s Office. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)