ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–The local governments in Western Mindanao and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are getting ready for the Filipinos who might be repatriated to the country as a result of the fighting in Sabah.
“We are expecting mass deportation, but I hope our expectations are wrong,” said ARMM acting governor Mujiv Hataman, as he announced the creation of a crisis management committee.
Hataman said that with its national security threatened, Malaysia would most probably review its internal security policies to ensure that the conflict will not happen again.
He said that with the huge number of Filipinos, with and without proper documentation, working in Malaysia, it is possible that many will be ejected from Sabah.
“But we are appealing to the Malaysian government not to include those who (have) no participation in the conflict,” Hataman said.
Lawyer Laisa Alamia, human rights director for ARMM, said a humanitarian crisis might be at hand.
“We are expecting a humanitarian crisis. We are also looking at the impact after the violence,” Alamia said.
Alamia added that the crisis management body would be setting up the protocols in handling the imminent massive deportations.
“This is a different experience because unlike the previous deportation, which are caused by not having the proper documents, this time the deportation is due to violence,” Alamia said.
Hataman explained that the crisis management committee, as an inter-agency effort, has already identified important tasks for each agency to provide government social services.
For immediate concerns, the Departments of Health and Social Welfare and Development were mobilized, Hataman said.
For long-term needs, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will implement programs to help the people reconstruct their lives.
The crisis management committee will have stations in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu where those repatriated are expected to arrive.
Hataman also appealed to all parties involved in the conflict to look beyond sovereignty.
“Let us go beyond the issue of sovereignty and sit down and talk as Muslim brothers,” he said.
DSWD Undersecretary Pombaen Kadir said their projection is that at least 10 percent of 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah would be going home.
On Tuesday morning, a total of 47 families arrived on a kumpit (wooden boat) in Sibutu Island in Tawi-Tawi.
“These families are from Basilan, Tawitawi and Sulu,” Kadir said.
Kadir said the DSWD in Western Mindanao and the ARMM are pooling their resources for the crisis.