MANILA, Philippines—Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Tuesday clarified that the deportation of some 300 Filipinos from Sabah was not in any way connected to the violent confrontation in the territory between the Malaysian authorities and the followers of Sulu’s Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
“I was informed by our field officials in Zamboanga that the 289 are regular deportees who came from all over Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia through regular commercial vessels from Sandakan,” said Baldoz.
“In fact, our data shows that 195 deportees from Sandakan, Sabah, arrived on Jan. 6, while another 109 deportees arrived on Jan. 12, bringing the total deportees to 897 this year alone,” she said.
The deportees arrived in Zamboanga on Sunday night. Their transportation expenses were shouldered by the Malaysian government, said Baldoz.
She said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) already had the template on how to deal with arriving deportees and is “activating it and strengthening it if there will be an influx of deportees.”
According to Baldoz, during the height of the Malaysian crackdown on illegal immigrants in 2005, she had ordered the strengthening of the One-Stop Shop Processing Center (OSSPC) in Mampang, Zamboanga City, to assist Filipino deportees from Sabah.
Malaysian immigration records show that there are 57,500 Filipino workers with work permit in Sabah as of 2010. These Filipinos went to Sabah illegally and did not pass through Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) processing. There are 95,951 more illegal workers registered under the Malaysian’s Operation Bersepadu in 2010.
“The DOLE is ready to help facilitate the smooth arrival of the deportees and we are ready with our reintegration programs and other services. However, we must work in convergence with other national agencies and local government authorities,” Baldoz said.