The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has confirmed it was holding talks with the United States to take thousands of Afghanistan refugees escaping from the Taliban regime.

Afghans, who had served before under the US military that occupied parts of the violence-prone state, have been trying to leave the country, fearing persecution.

Many of these Afghan refugees will be eventually settled in the United States under a special visa program.

While awaiting permanent relocation to the United States, Washington has been asking the Philippines, a reliable ally in the region, to temporarily house them.

In a recent Senate hearing, it was revealed that the US has been asking the Philippines to accept 50,000 to 80,000 Afghans until they are resettled in several states in North America and other countries.

The temporary housing of Afghan refugees in the Philippines is a great humanitarian gesture that will win a lot of goodwill for the government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

In the past, the Philippines took in refugees from other countries on humanitarian grounds.

During the Commonwealth period, the late President Manuel Luis Quezon allowed some Jewish families to settle in the Philippines.

The Jews were persecuted in Europe at a time Germany was ruled by fascist and anti-Semitic leaders, liked Adolf Hitler.

They needed a safe place and Quezon offered them sanctuary. Some went back to a new homeland set up by the United States after the Second World War in the Middle East, in what is now known as Israel.

Then, from the middle of 1970s until late 1980s, the Philippines also housed thousands of Indo-Chinese refugees escaping the Communist regimes after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese risked their lives and limbs to escape by boat, reaching countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The Philippines built two large refugee processing centers in Morong town in Bataan and in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan for the Indo-Chinese refugees.

An estimated 400,000 Indo-Chinese refugees passed through these camps, which opened in 1980. It was closed in the 1990s when UN and US funding ended.

These refugees were resettled in some Western countries, like the United States, Australia, Canada, and in Europe. But some refugees stayed in the country after marrying Filipinos while others set up businesses.

The best-tasting noodles and French bread were sold in Vietnamese shops in Palawan.

The refugees also displayed a boat they used at a processing center in Puerto Princesa, a reminder of the boat people’s perseverance to escape from the Communist regime and win freedom.

The United Nations provided funds, through its United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to sustain the two centers.

Filipino businessmen also profited from these refugee centers as the UN agencies contracted Victory Liner to ferry the refugees from the centers to the airport.

Local businessmen supplied tons of meat, fish, and vegetables while smaller shops set up restaurants nearby.

Filipino teachers were hired to teach the refugees basic English language as they will be resetted in the US, Canada, and Australia.

There were no security issues involving the refugees. In fact, some of the refugees had fell victim to crimes inside and outside the camps.

There were a few reports of rapes and murders in the Morong refugee camp involving some young Amerasians.

The vice president, Sara Duterte-Carpio, must be misinformed about the status of the Afghan refugees.

She was opposing the government’s plan to accept the Afghan refugees, citing security reasons.

She could be taking the side of her close ally, Sen. Imee Marcos, who blew the whistle on the secret talks between the US and her brother’s administration.

The senator has been strongly opposing any policy involving the United States, like the grant of four additional locations for the US armed forces under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The senator is close to Beijing. She even accompanied her brother, President Marcos, when he embarked on a state visit to China in January.

Malacañang issued a statement saying it was studying the issue, perhaps to appease the vice president and the president’s sister who were opposed to the plan.

During Rodrigo Duterte’s time, he had offered sanctuary to ethnic groups, including the Muslim Rohingyas, to settle in the Philippines on humanitarian grounds.

Persecuted in Buddhist Myanmar, the Rohingyas also fled by boat to reach nearby Bangladesh or Indonesia.

The vice president’s views on the Afghan refugees mirror her parochial views of international relations and limit herself to internal security issues.

The Afghan refugees are not Taliban members. She should not fear potential terrorism threats the same way that she sees the Communist New People’s Army.

Besides, the government would settle these Afghan refugees in a camp far from the cities – like the Indo-Chinese refugees 40 to 50 years ago.

The only problem is that the old refugee processing centers are gone. The government has to build new facilities.

Perhaps, the mega drug rehabilitation centers in Nueva Ecija and Bukidnon, which were never used, could be a temporary shelter for the Afghans.

The Philippines must help Afghan refugees even if they stay in the country temporarily.

There are occasions the Philippines needs help from the international community, especially during disasters like typhoons and earthquakes.

The Philippines also needs help, especially in setting disputes in the South China Sea.

It’s about time the Philippines think about helping others rather than thinking about how other states can help the country.