5,000 Pinoys in Sabah displaced by standoffCOTABATO CITY, Philippines – Close to 5,000 Filipinos residing in Sabah have been displaced by the clashes between Malaysian security forces and armed followers of the Sulu sultanate who pressed their proprietary claims over the territory.
Most of the displaced individuals were from the island provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) working in farms in Sabah.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) said about 4,721 Filipinos have returned to Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Of the number, 2,861 were adults and 1,860 were children or minors.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in ARMM said most of the displaced individuals are currently sheltered in evacuation centers in Mahardika Institute of Technology, Tubig-Tahan Elementary School, Tawi-Tawi School of Arts and Trade, Housing Project Elementary School, Panglima Annao Elementary School and Pahut Elementary School, all in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
The DSWD, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Bureau of Immigration have established a processing center in Taganak, Tawi-Tawi to assist the refugees who need psycho-social interventions, legal documents, skills training, and livelihood.
The ARMM government has created Task Force Tabang to assist the evacuees.
Provincial prosecutors, in coordination with the Commission on Human Rights, have been documenting complaints of abuses committed by Malaysian security forces against Filipinos in Sabah following the encounter with the followers of the Sulu sultanate.
Major General Rey Ardo, chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said they have created a crisis management committee to help look into the plight of evacuees from Sabah.
Meanwhile, activist groups have urged President Aquino to revive the country’s claim to Sabah.
The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis patylist said Malacañang should categorically insist that Sabah is part of the country’s territory based on historical accounts.
“Why can’t the President tell Kuala Lumpur that Sabah belongs to 99 million Filipinos and we will do whatever we can do to get back what is legally and morally ours? This act if done is as easy as singing the alphabet song,”” Pamalakaya chair head and AnakPawis party-list vice chairman Fernando Hicap said.
For his part, Pamalakaya vice chair Salvador France challenged President Aquino to file charges of war crimes before the International Criminal Court against the Malaysian government.
– With Michelle Zoleta