Clashes force 300 OFWs in Sabah to return home-A A +A
Monday, March 4, 2013
MANILA -- Almost 300 overseas Filipino workers have returned to the country over the weekend in view of the brewing tension in Sabah between the Malaysian authorities and the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said some 289 OFWs came home Sunday night from Sabah.
"The Dole (Department of Labor and Employment) 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," she said.
In view of the Sabah standoff, Baldoz has issued a series of instructions to her officials on what to do just in case returning Filipinos arrive from Sabah.
Baldoz has ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) regional office in Zamboanga to coordinate with the Dole Regional Office in Zamboanga Peninsula; and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the local authorities to establish a profile and documentation of the returnees to determine appropriate services to be provided.
"The documents of those who wish to return to their employers after the situation has returned to normal, such as their overseas employment certificates, must be ready for processing. On the other hand, returnees who plan to stay in the country for good should be provided reintegration assistance through the National Reintegration Center for OFWs [NRCO]," Baldoz said.
The reintegration program includes providing job matching and job referral assistance for those who will elect to just stay in the country to work; and giving out of livelihood business starter kits for those who wish to engage in businesses.
Baldoz said she went to Zamboanga City to meet with officials of the DOLE Regional Coordinating Committee and ensure that all DOLE programs and services are in place for the expected influx of Filipino returnees from Sabah.
Last February 12, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and a group of about 200 people, some of them armed, went to the Lahad Datu in Sabah in a bid to reclaim what they say as rightfully belonging to the Sultanate of Sulu.
This resulted to the formation of sea and land blockade by Malaysian forces around the village believing the Filipino group to be security threats.
Late last week, several clashes have already taken place between the Sulu-based group and the Malaysian security personnel. (SDR/HDT/Sunnex)