MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine government is still awaiting Malaysia’s permission for its humanitarian ship to dock at Lahad Datu to fetch followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who are willing to come home, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.
The ship, now on standby in Tawi-Tawi, has medical staff and social workers on board as well as a stock of food, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said in a press briefing.
The DFA is also arranging to send a consular team to the Lahad Datu even as Manila has yet to get Kuala Lumpur’s official acceptance of the Philippines’ request to extend until Tuesday its deadline for Kiram’s group to leave Sabah.
“We have learned that they [Malaysian forces] have surrounded the area. So what we want to happen is that we would like this group to now decide to leave the area for the safety and get on board our humanitarian ship,” said Hernandez.
“We don’t want them to get hurt, to nurse any violence or whatever. That’s why we sent a humanitarian ship there … It’s ready to go to the border when we have people who are ready to be moved and fetched,” said the official.
Hernandez said Malaysia has been “cooperative” and “tolerant” of the situation, bent on resolving the standoff peacefully.
“Since there are no movements there, it means that the deadline is not set in stone and they are giving some leeway to the group to leave peacefully and expeditiously,” Hernandez.
The Philippines prepositioned a ship in Tawi-Tawi for immediate dispatch to Lahad Datu in the event that negotiations succeed, Kiram’s group backs down and opts to return home as the Sabah standoff entered the third week.