RESETTLEMENT of Hongkong's Vietnamese refugees via the Philippines has ground to a halt because a quota for visas has been filled and Manila will not issue any more. The problem has already stranded more than 200 refugees at the New Horizon Vietnamese Refugee Centre at Kai Tak for more than a month. As almost all refugees are sent to the Philippines' Bataan transit centre before being resettled in another country, the problem also threatens to stop any more leaving Hongkong. Government refugee co-ordinator Mr Brian Bresnihan is expected to arrive in the Philippines today and will raise the issue with the authorities there. By early last month, the Philippines had issued the 5,000 visas it promised to the territory in 1989 under the Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Philippines Government agreed to provide the visas so that refugees could reach the Bataan transit centre on their way to resettle in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and the Scandinavian states. Diplomatic sources said a new agreement would have to be negotiated to restore the refugees' traditional passage through Bataan. It is not considered an option to send refugees from Hongkong direct to the countries of their final destination, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as on humanitarian grounds. The diplomatic sources accused Hongkong and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of underestimating demand for visas and forgetting about the quota cut-off. Legislators, who were surprised to learn that the quota had been filled, said they would raise the issue at a security panel meeting next week. Local UNHCR officials have refused to comment, while Mr Bresnihan said the issue was a ''technical problem with transfers''. But he admitted that it was a cause for concern, ''because Bataan has been part of the process since 1991, and those who are screened in are sent there then resettled''. If this process was disrupted, Hongkong would have to continue caring for the refugees. At the Bataan centre refugees received assistance including counselling and language instruction. ''Previous experience taught us that resettlement could take much longer, even years, if people went directly to their resettlement country without preparation,'' a government spokesman said. Mr Bresnihan said he would raise the visa problem with authorities during his visit to the Philippines this week. He hoped it could be solved soon. But a diplomatic source said the problem required ''a whole new agreement which will have to be negotiated. The people involved obviously underestimated the problem''. Another said UNHCR and Hongkong officials seemed to have ''almost forgotten about the quota and not really thought about the number of visas they would need until it was too late''. The Philippines consul, the British embassy in Manila, the International Organisation for Migration, and the UNHCR are already involved in negotiations. Philippines Consul-General Mr Antonio Villamor said he could not issue more visas unless he was instructed to do so by his government. Mr Bresnihan said that not all the 5,000 visas issued had been used. ''Some are resettled directly and others get sick. Then they are issued another visa to travel two weeks later,'' he said. The Government has estimated that 700 to 800 visas were wasted, and the consulate has asked for the documentation to be returned so these visas can be credited against the quota. Independent legislator Mr Martin Barrow said the visa question would be raised at the next security panel meeting. ''It is not in itself such a significant problem, because only 10 per cent of people are screened in as refugees. The real issue is encouraging the non-refugees to volunteer to return,'' he said. The latest government figures show that 2,448 of the 43,375 Vietnamese in the territory have been screened in as refugees.