MANILA -- The Philippines is trying to prevent Myanmar from hardening its stance against the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as he explained the country's vote on a draft resolution on the human rights situation in the Southeast Asian nation.
"There's a grave situation happening there, a humanitarian situation. And we are the chairman of ASEAN. Our option is (to vote) no or abstain, because we are allowing AHA (ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management center)," he said in a television interview.
In October 2017, the AHA Center already dispatched about 80 tonnes of relief items for displaced communities in Rakhine State through Yangon, Myanmar.
The ASEAN humanitarian assistance arm, with confidence from Myanmar government, continues to work closely on the distribution of relief items to the displaced communities.
Aside from ASEAN, Cayetano said the Philippines also courses its assistance through the Philippine Red Cross to the Myanmar Red Cross and International Red Cross.
"If we (vote) yes as ASEAN Chair, magha-harden up against sa atin ang mga leaders ng Myanmar, including their military, instead na ngayon may access tayo, nakakapasok tayo," he said.
Cayetano said the Philippines voting yes on a resolution calling on Myanmar to stop military campaign against Rohingya Muslims is not an option for the country as it would have ripple effect on the displaced communities that needed immediate aid.
"It's our unique situation, we are not like the 100 plus other countries. They are not chair of ASEAN, they are not being asked to help."
He explained that the objective of the UN resolution is to address the root causes of crisis in Rakhine State and explore immediate humanitarian access. "We are getting to do that by the way we voted," he said.
While voting no or abstain against the human rights situation in Myanmar may sound negatively, Cayetano stressed "the situation on the ground is, by voting no or abstaining, our humanitarian people can come in."
Voting in favor of the UN draft resolution were 135 countries while 26 abstained and 10 voted against.
The overwhelming calls for Myanmar military to halt campaign against Rohingyans in the Northern Rakhine state paves way for the revival of text dropped in 2016 due to the country's progress on human rights under State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi's leadership.
Source: Philippine News Agency