Philippines granted access to Pinoys in Sabah-A A +A
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
MANILA (Updated) - The Malaysian Government has granted the Philippines access to Filipinos affected by the armed crisis in Sabah, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.
"Our embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur have confirmed that the augmentation team of the DFA was able to visit yesterday (Monday) the Filipinos currently staying in evacuation centers," said DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez in a press briefing.
He said the Philippine humanitarian teams were dispatched to Lahad Datu and Semporna/Tawau in Sabah and arrived there last March 8 to check on the condition of and assist the members of the Filipino community in those areas.
On March 11 in Lahad Datu, a team held meetings with Filipino community leaders and members in the area.
The team also distributed foodstuffs and other relief provisions at the Cendarawasih Gym, one of four evacuation centers located in the Felda Sahabat area, where more than 500 Filipinos are temporarily staying, said Hernandez.
He said the team also visited a Badjau Laut village composed of 43 Filipino families staying in boats along the shoreline, together with officials of the Humana Borneo Child Aid Society, a non-governmental organization that provides alternative education to children of migrant families in Sabah.
The team likewise provided food and other provisions to those present, as well as assured them of the Philippine Government's assistance.
Some members of the Embassy team later proceeded to Sandakan to check on the conditions of the Filipino community there, he said.
The Embassy team dispatched to Tawau established contact with a group of Filipinos working in a construction site. Those who manifested the desire to be repatriated home are being assisted by the team.
The team also reached out to members of the Filipino community in Semporna, said Hernandez.
Malaysia’s move marks the first time that Philippine officials were given access to distressed Filipinos since fighting erupted earlier this month between Malaysian forces and followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Sabah.
Kiram’s followers landed in Sabah in February 12 to revive a long-dormant territorial claim to Malaysia's eastern state in Borneo. Airstrikes and mortar attacks, however, drove the Filipinos out of the village last week, but many are believed to be hiding in nearby palm oil plantations.
On Tuesday, Malaysia’s army chief Zulkifeli Zin said a soldier and three Filipino gunmen have been killed in the latest clash.
Malaysian authorities have reported nearly 60 Filipino casualties and eight police deaths in Sabah this month. Authorities said the followers of Kiram must surrender unconditionally and face prosecution. (HDT/AP/Sunnex)