314 Pinoy deportees arrive in Sulu

Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - March 5, 2013 - 12:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The 314 Filipinos deported from Sabah last Saturday are worried about their families left behind in Sabah as hostilities escalate between the followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysian security forces.

The deportees arrived in this city on board a commercial ferry and were immediately assisted by members of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)’s processing center for displaced persons (PCDP).

The deportees were composed of 193 males, 95 females and 26 children, all natives of Davao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Elizabeth Dee, DSWD 9 assistance director for operations, yesterday said the deportation of the illegal migrants in Sabah was not related to the standoff in Lahad Datu, which has spread to other areas.

Dee said the Filipinos who arrived last Saturday were the first batch of deportees for March.

“I am worried about my family back there because there had been reports that tension is escalating. We don’t know what the Malaysian authorities will do to our families,” said Helmibin Mor, 37, of Barangay Timbangan, Indanan, Sulu.

Mor, who worked for 10 years as a construction worker in Kota Kinabalu but was arrested in 2011, said he left his wife and six children in Sinampang in Sabah’s capital.

He said most of his fellow male deportees also have families in Sabah and that they would like to bring their families with them to the Philippines.

The deportees also confirmed the maltreatment that most of them experienced inside their detention facilities in Malaysia.

Assistance ready

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), for its part, is preparing emergency employment and other assistance for Filipino workers returning from Sabah.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz flew to Zamboanga City yesterday to discuss with local officials the implementation of programs for hundreds of returnees from Sabah.

Aside from the illegal migrants, other Filipino workers in Sabah are expected to come home amid the tension there.

“The DOLE helped facilitate their smooth arrival, and we are ready with our reintegration programs and other services for other Filipinos who may decide to return to the country either for good or to wait for the situation to stabilize before returning to Sabah,” Baldoz said.

Meanwhile, social workers from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Bonggao are assisting the existing Pantawid Pamilya network of social workers in Simunul, Tandabanak, and Sibutu.

DSWD is also working with the wife of Agbimmudin Kiram to help identify families whose husbands or sons are in Lahad Datu so that food and other assistance can be provided. At present, 31 families are undergoing validation, while the number of families that may require assistance is still being validated in Sibutu.

In addition, food supplies are being shipped by Navy vessels to Simunul Island, for families currently there.

Humanitarian missions

Two vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will be placed on standby in Zamboanga in the event that there is a need to conduct a humanitarian mission to Sabah.

PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo yesterday said two of their ships, the BRP EDSA and the BRP Davao del Norte, were on their way to Zamboanga.

The BRP EDSA left the PCG headquarters yesterday morning while the BRP Davao del Norte would come from General Santos City.

“They are going to Zamboanga and position themselves. They would be waiting for further instructions. They might be tasked to give humanitarian assistance in case there is a need for extraction (of people from Sabah),” Balilo said.

He clarified that their participation in addressing the Sabah situation would be limited to humanitarian work and the personnel that they would be sending are non-combatants.

He said on board their two ships are three medical teams composed of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. 

The executive department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) also dispatched yesterday a team of health and social welfare officials to Tawi-Tawi to check on the reported exodus to the province of Tausug and Samah villagers from Sabah to escape the continuing crackdown by Malaysian authorities. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Evelyn Macairan, John Unson, Jose Rodel Clapano, Pia Lee-Brago









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