Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:40 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Philippines

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Philippines , 1 June 2000, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Philippines hosted 170 refugees at the end of 1999. Of those, 20 had been granted refugee status by the Philippines government and 150 were considered refugees under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Most refugees were from the Middle East and Africa.

As many as 200,000 Filipinos were believed to be internally displaced, and 45,000 Filipino refugees remained in Malaysia.


In 1999, one year after the Philippines became the first member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to establish a formal refugee status determination system, the Philippines adjudicated 20 cases, approving half of them. No cases were pending at the end of the year.

Persons granted refugee status, and their spouses and children, are protected from refoulement (forced return). They are granted Alien Certificates of Residence, which may be renewed periodically. No laws or regulations provide for the granting of permanent status or citizenship to refugees, although Filipino officials have indicated that this could be possible.


The Philippines closed its last Vietnamese refugee camp in 1998. At the end of 1999, only six Vietnamese refugees remained, along with some 1,500 other Vietnamese who had been "screened out" (determined not to be refugees under the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese Refugees ).

Another 262 Vietnamese whom the United States initially agreed to admit through its Orderly Departure Program also remained in the Philippines. They refused to return to Vietnam after the U.S. government revoked their entry visas for various reasons, primarily fraud.

Internal Displacement

At the end of the year, as many as 200,000 persons were estimated to be internally displaced in the Philippines, primarily as a result of armed conflict between the Philippine government and insurgent forces. Other causes included clan or tribal wars.

According to the Ecumenical Commission for Displaced Families and Communities (ECDFC), at least 53,000 families – or about 330,000 persons – were forced to leave their homes during 1999, mostly to escape government counterinsurgency operations against communist revolutionaries and Muslim secessionists. The level of displacement, said ECDFC, was more than eight times that of the previous year.

The Philippines accepted responsibility for displaced persons, and national and local government agencies were charged with assisting them. However, the government provided little real assistance to the uprooted. Although nongovernmental organizations and religious groups helped, these agencies had few resources.

During the 1980s, conflict between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People's Army (NPA) – the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – displaced thousands of civilians. The worst of the conflict ended in the early 1990s, but many people remained displaced in Manila and other urban centers, often subsisting in what have become semi-permanent slums. In 1999, the NPA and CPP remained in a lower intensity of conflict with the Philippine army. The government had renewed peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), an umbrella group that included the CPP.

In the 1990s, most displacement resulted from conflict between the AFP and Muslim insurgents, particularly on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao. Mindanao is one of the three largest islands in the Philippine archipelago, with 28 percent of the population and 35 percent of the land area. The Philippine army and Muslim guerrillas have fought a civil war for more than 25 years.

Throughout the year, peace talks between the government and Muslim insurgent groups continued but did not result in an agreement. Cease-fires took hold and were broken, and the fighting resulted in more deaths and displacement.

In addition to creating displacement, the conflicts in the Philippines have caused large numbers of Muslim refugees to flee to Malaysia. At the end of 1999, some 45,000 refugees from Mindanao remained as refugees in Malaysia, mostly in the province of Sabah (see Malaysia).

In November, the Philippines prevented the UN special representative to the secretary general for internally displaced persons, Francis Deng, from attending a workshop on internally displaced persons held in Manila, the Philippine capital. The workshop was intended to educate government and nongovernmental human rights workers on the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The Philippine Department of Foreign Ministry reportedly discouraged government representatives from attending the workshop, saying it could "incite or agitate the public against the government."

Search Refworld