More people of Indonesian descent in the Philippines have been confirmed of their nationality by the Indonesian government, having been at risk of statelessness for decades.
The Philippines’ Sangir people – or what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calls “people of Indonesian descent (PID)” – have lived under uncertain citizenship status since around three generations ago when, according to historical accounts, they came from the Sangihe Islands in North Sulawesi.
The Sangirs were not able to obtain birth certificates as they were not Filipinos and are required to secure an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) that gives them the right to stay, for which they must pay a costly annual fee.
In recent years, however, the Indonesian government have sought to help them by offering eligible Sangirs the option to become Indonesian citizens. Since last year, more than 3,000 people of Indonesian descent in the Philippines have been confirmed of their nationality.
“We will give them a certificate of citizenship based on what their certificates tell. Now if it shows that they’re Indonesians, we will move on to the next part of the process which is to give them a passport,” said Berlian Napitulu, Indonesian Consul General to the Philippines, as quoted by Al Jazeera.
The efforts to save these people from the risk of statelessness was notable in 2006 when the Republic of Indonesia reformed its citizenship law, so those who lost their nationality could reacquire it.
Now, the government, through the Consulate General, has even offered free sea transportation for those who decide to take a one-way ticket home.
According to a UNHCR research in 2016, there are a total of 8,745 recorded people of Indonesian descent in the Philippines. Many of them come from Balut and Sarangani islands.