WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a meeting convened by Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. at the Philippine Embassy August 13, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Alan Bersin told the Ambassador and Filipino-American community leaders that DHS is still in the process of evaluating the government’s request to place the Philippines under Temporary Protective Status (TPS) in the wake of of the massive devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan last year.
“This is a matter that is under consideration by Secretary Jeh Johnson. There are no specific deadlines but this does require the kind of outreach, time and consideration that it is being given,” Assistant Secretary Bersin told the Embassy’s Radyo Tambuli after the meeting.
“I know my colleagues in the government understand the urgency of the situation and the necessity for due deliberation,” said Assistant Secretary Bersin, also the Department’s Chief Diplomatic Officer, when asked if a decision on the Philippine request was forthcoming. Bersin noted Ambassador’s Cuisia initiative in inviting Filipino American community leaders “so that their views could be well heard and taken into account.”
Director Leon Rodriguez of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service who was also in attendance said the views expressed by the Filipino-American Community leaders would be helpful in their decision on the Philippine request for TPS.
Ambassador Cuisia was delighted to hear this from the DHS officials. “It was reassuring to know that the US Government will give due consideration to the views of the Filipino-American Community when it makes its decision on our request for TPS”, he said.
“We are really very grateful that they took the time to be with us to listen to the humanitarian, legal, economic and geopolitical arguments for the granting of TPS,” said Loida Nicolas-Lewis, Chair of the US Pinoys for Good Government. “We are hoping that something will come out of our exchange of views.”
Also present in the meeting were officials of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA) led by J.T. Mallonga (New York), John Melegrito and Bing Branigin (Washington, D.C.); and Cornelio Natividad and Evelyn Natividad (Illinois); Rodel Rodis, President of the US Pinoys for Good Government (San Francisco) and Eric Lachica (Maryland); Father Patrick Longalong, Vice President of the National Association of Filipino Priests (New York); Grace Valera Jaramillo and Jessie Gatchalian, Co-Executive Directors of the Migrant Heritage Commission (Virginia); and Aquilina Versoza, Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (Los Angeles). They all underscored the urgent need for the granting of the TPS request.
During the discussions, Mallonga, the newly elected chair of NAFFAA, said a TPS designation for the Philippines would allow the Haiyan-affected areas to immediately bounce back from the devastation.
“The more than 200,000 Filipinos who would benefit from TPS will help the Philippines go a long way,” said Mallonga. He cited a World Bank study that showed that dollar remittances to countries earlier placed under TPS quadrupled and even exceeded the amount of overseas development assistance they have been receiving.
In his presentation, Rodis said approval of the TPS request would help the Philippines strengthen its capacity to respond to similar disasters in the future.
“The Philippines is situated in the Pacific Rim of Fire and should expect more Haiyans to come down its way. It is just a question of which part of the Philippines will be struck next and when,” said Rodis.
For her part, Versoza said the ongoing recovery effort in the affected areas is putting a strain on the resources of the Philippines. She cited data from the US Agency for International Development that said that more than 2 million survivors are still without durable shelter.
“Everyday is a struggle in the typhoon-devastated areas in the Philippines. TPS is one way to help us rebuild and recover,” Versoza said
PHOTO 1: Exchange of Views. Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. opens discussions on the Philippine request to be placed under Temporary Protected Status during a dialogue between leaders of the Filipino-American Community and officials of the Department of Homeland Security at the Romulo Hall of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. (Philippine Embassy Photo by Elmer G. Cato)
PHOTO 2: Fil Am community leaders and Philippine Embassy officials pose for a picture after a meeting with DHS officials. (Philippine Embassy Photo by Elmer G. Cato)