MANILA, Philippines—Nearly 5,000 persons, almost half of them children, have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in Sabah, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Saturday.
The evacuees have sought shelter in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi provinces after Malaysian authorities clashed with forces of the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, who has renewed his family’s claim to Sabah.
In its latest situation report, the NDRRMC said there are 944 displaced families, comprised of 4,983 people—2,903 adults and 2,080 children.
The report said that the Department Social Work and Development (DSWD) has allocated some P13.4-milion worth of food and supplies for the evacuees.
It added the DSWD was anticipating the arrival of more displaced persons from Sabah and has allocated six more schools as “processing centers.”
These are the Mahardika Institute of Technology, Tubig Tanah Elementary School, Tawi-Tawi School of Arts and Trade, Housing Project Elementary School, Panglima Annao Elementary School, and Pahut Elementary School.
The DSWD also plans to establish a 24/7 one-stop shop processing center in Taganak, Tawi-Tawi, to assist the displaced persons with psychosocial interventions, issuance of legal documents, skills training, livelihood, and shelter assistance, among others. This would be done in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Bureau of Immigration, the NDRRMC report said.
In February, an estimated 200 followers of Kiram, some of them armed, landed in Sabah to revive its long-dormant territorial claim, surprising both the Philippines and Malaysia, which had placed the decades-old issue in the backburner. Clashes ensued.
According to Malaysia, the latest conflict has claimed the lives of more than 60 members of the so-called Royal Sulu Forces (RSF), only nine of them members of its security force.
Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who led the RSF when they arrived in Sabah last Feb. 12, remains elusive and his whereabouts are unknown.
Malaysia claims that he has slipped back to Southern Mindanao but Philippine defense and military officials have said there was no information that the crown prince was in the area.
Kiram is the younger brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III who has vowed to pursue the sultanate’s claim based on a “historical truth.”